Posted: 21st June 2017
Plants are an extremely important commodity, whether they are being used as a food, an ingredient for feed, or just creating a welcoming ambience in hotels or historic gardens. Therefore, the complementary industries associated with the use of plants will do everything in their power to maintain the quality of supply.
In this article, we discuss the use of rapid tests for plant diseases and the benefits they offer for plant disease management in order to maintain yield and supply.
Rapid tests are easy to use diagnostic devices that provide results quickly. Although there are different types of rapid tests, for this article we will discuss lateral flow immunoassays.
The main reason for using rapid tests for plant diseases is twofold. They detect plant virus, bacteria or fungi quickly in the field throughout the growing season, and they are easy to use and require minimal training.
Here are some of the different sectors benefiting from using rapid test.
Arborists will use rapid tests to detect pathogens quickly in the field in order to determine the location of a pathogen and to prevent diseases from spreading.
For example, Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden Oak Death) has been causing a problem in the UK, as well as to other parts of Europe and the USA, for many years. Rapid tests have been used to confirm the presence or absence of the pathogen in forests and woodlands. In fact, the use of rapid tests in woodlands was highlighted on the BBC.
The reasons for using rapid tests are not only to protect the trees and woodlands owing to their importance in the echo system. But, also by preventing the disease from infecting trees, it reduces the risks of dead branches, or the trees themselves, from falling on people.
Like with forests and woodlands, the effects of diseases on public and historic gardens can be hazardous to public safety. However, in addition, the removal of infected plants could hinder attracting visitors, thus having an impact on income.
Rhododendron is common in public and historic gardens and is susceptible to Phytophthora ramorum. The disease can spread very quickly in rhododendron with the potential of infecting many different plants and trees alike.
Rapid tests have been used in public and historic gardens for many years to fight this troublesome disease in order to maintain the beauty and ambience that the public enjoys so much.
For growers of potatoes, tomatoes, apples or ornamental plants, for example, yield and quality are paramount for maintaining supply. Therefore a robust plant disease management strategy is required.
Rapid tests can be used throughout the growing cycle in order monitor the presence or absence of a disease.
An important part of a rapid test is its capability to act as an early warning sign for the presence of a disease. Testing regularly in the field or nursery, rather than sending samples off for more time-consuming laboratory testing, could be the difference between removing a small number of plants opposed to the removal of a large number of plants.
Inspectors and advisors
Some crops are subject to legislation in order to meet quality criteria and avoid the spread of commercially damaging diseases, especially those crops that require plant passports.
Rapid tests are ideal for inspectors and advisors as they give their client’s rapid results. Inspectors may still be required to send their samples to laboratories for species identification or further confirmatory testing owing to standard operating procedures. However, in-field-results help inspectors to decide which samples to send to the laboratory, instead of sending all infected samples, thus offering cost and time-saving benefits.
Like with growers, quick results means inspectors and advisors can offer instant advice on disease management protocols post-detection.
We have highlighted some best techniques for getting the best results from plant disease rapid tests on our golden rules web page.
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