Mologic Ltd, a leading developer of lateral flow and rapid diagnostic technologies, has announced the launch of its first crop pathogen diagnostic test, BotrytisAlert. As part of an Innovate UK-funded initiative, Mologic is applying its powerful, personalized lateral flow expertise to better inform decision-making at critical points across the food production and processing chain. BotrytisAlert is a low-cost test that can be used to measure the fungal crop pathogen Botrytis both in air and plant material, enabling growers to apply controlled measures ahead of symptom development, prevent disease establishment and post-harvest rot.
Mologic has developed and trialed BotrytisAlert with Berry Garden Growers, NIAB EMR and Warwickshire College. Using spore sampling devices, the consortium tested crop bioaerosols for Botrytis to drive early warning of disease potential on exposed crops. In soft fruit, the test has been used to forecast infection risk, guide the timed application of control treatments ahead of symptom development, inform quality and drive crop post-harvest management decisions. Early intervention in a disease cycle facilitates improved efficacy of sustainable control measures and reduce the unnecessary use of pesticides and antibiotics.
Botrytis is reported to infect more than 200 plant species and cause annual losses of $10 to $100,000. In the UK, Botrytis infection provides the second greatest cause of crop loss to the horticulture sector by reducing harvest yields and marketability. A total cost to the UK industry is estimated at £54million. Primarily affecting strawberries (£15-30million losses) but also cut flowers (£24million), tomatoes, onions, hardy nursery stock and ornamentals. Worldwide, Botrytis is considered one of the most serious diseases of grapevine affecting not only yield, but grape quality and taste. In the wine sector, it is estimated on average 25% turnover is lost due to Botrytis rot, at a cost to the industry of €15billion per year.
BotrytisAlert is the first test developed as part of Mologic’s wider crop protection diagnostic portfolio, to include other fungal pathogens such as Rhizopus and Mucor.
Dr Alison Wakeham, Project Leader, Mologic, commented: “As for the treatment of human diseases, early intervention is key for the health of our crops, livestock and fisheries. We understand that agriculture is an industry where profit margins are low and, therefore, diagnostic technologies tests must be low cost, easy to use, and provide representative sampling to enable direct decision making. Developed with these factors in mind, BotrytisAlert, facilitates a better informed and earlier intervention to address many of the crop losses caused by this infection.”
Richard Harnden, Director of Research, Berry Gardens Growers, said: “We are pleased to be partnering on this project, set out to produce an easy system of trapping and quantifying the background airborne spore levels of Botrytis, and two additional fungal pathogens Mucor and Rhizopus. This new information will be incorporated into our on-line disease forecasting models, enabling our growers to be better informed about the risk of these diseases appearing in their crops. By deploying this new technology, growers will increase their marketable yields, reduce their waste levels and improve the shelf life of their fruit purchased by consumers.”
Professor Roy Kennedy, Agri-Tech Research Centre, Warwickshire Colleges Group added: “Growers and farmers face a set of issues more challenging than at any other time in our history. Climate change, ever shrinking biodiversity and powerful market forces dominate farming methods. It is a time of challenge but also of great opportunity which can only be realized by utilizing new technologies including new diagnostic approaches. Working with Mologic to develop a portfolio of crop-side, easy to use low cost rapid tests has been a pleasure and we look forward to providing horticulturalists with necessary training on these and other emerging novel approaches and developments.
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