Seed-borne diseases can prove difficult to identify, particularly in developing countries where diagnostic equipment may not be available. Seed health expert Kelvin Hughes from the UK government’s Food and Environment Research Agency made something of a breakthrough in China recently when faced with seedling death during a technical exchange visit.
Kelvin was asked to assess the health of some watermelon seeds. Batches of seeds germinated previously had showed considerable mortality, suggesting root infections. Using the Phytophthora Pocket Diagnostic test Kelvin was able to detect pre-symptomatic infection of roots only 4-5 days after germination. The Phytophthora species causing root death was not identified, but there are several species of this pathogen which are seed borne, the most likley of which is Phytophthora capsici.
This is believed to be the first time Pocket Diagnostic tests have been used in the assessment of seed health. It opens up the possibility of the tests being used in developing countries for the detection of other seed-borne pathogens such as Pepino mosaic virus and Ralstonia solanacearum.