Mologic launches rapid diagnostic test for fungal crop pathogen Botrytis

The company developed and trialled BotrytisAlert with Berry Garden Growers, NIAB EMR and the Warwickshire College

Mologic has announced the launch of its first crop pathogen diagnostic test, BotrytisAlert.

As part of an Innovate UK funded initiative, Mologic has launched a low-cost test which 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.

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 enables a reduction in 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.

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.”

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 realised by utilising new technologies including new diagnostic approaches.”