In-field testing kit under development

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A DECISION support tool to assist growers with preventative in-field potato disease testing is currently under development at Newcastle University.

Sarah Sommer, a postdoctoral researcher working on multiplexed potato virus lateral flow assays at the university’s School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, says the aim is to develop a simple but effective preventative disease testing kit that combines with a smart phone app, which will help tackle the overall challenge of sustainable food production.

"The biggest challenges of the 21st century are population growth, scarcity of resources and climate change. To meet the challenge, we need to establish new approaches to sustainable food production," said Sarah, who is currently doing a market research course through Innovate UK via ICURe (Innovation to Commercialisation of University research), exploring the potential of a digital agronomy system.

The tool kit under development is called Spot-on Agri-Diagnostics and is based on testing kits that allow fast detection of multiple diseases for a range of different crops.

"We're currently focused on potato viruses in particular but the versatility of our digital agronomy system allows for a wide range of applications within the potato market and beyond,” Sarah said. “Horticulture, cereals and ornamentals are all potential application areas for our testing tool kit. Using agri-diagnostics tools, we hope to enable precise application and point-of-need use of agro-chemicals. This may reduce the overall volume of products used, giving cost savings and environmental gains for farmers and others involved in agriculture."