Mologic has launched a new rapid test for Botrytis. BotrytisAlert uses lateral flow technology to enable earlier disease intervention and prevent wide-spread crop failures. It is the company’s first crop pathogen diagnostic test.

According to Mologic, BotrytisAlert is a low-cost test which can be used to measure the pathogen Botrytis both in air and plant material. This enables growers to apply controlled measures ahead of symptom development and so prevents disease establishment and post-harvest rot.

Intervening early in the disease cycle allows for improved efficacy and more sustainable control measures, which in turn results in a reduced use of pesticides.

Botrytis can infect over 200 species of plants and can cause huge financial losses. In the UK, the disease is reported to be the second greatest cause of crop loss to the horticulture sector by reducing harvest yields and marketability.

A statement from Mologic estimated the cost to the UK industry at £54 million. £15-30 million losses have been reported in strawberry crops and £24 million in cut flowers, both due to botrytis.

The disease is also common in tomatoes and onions and is one of the most serious diseases affecting grapevines. It affects yield, quality and taste and results in huge financial losses each year.

The company is also set to release more rapid tests to detect crop pathogens in the future.

Dr. Alison Wakeham, who is the project leader in Mologic, commented: “We understand that agriculture is an industry where profit margins are low and, therefore, diagnostic technology 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 for Berry Gardens Growers, stated: “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.

“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,” he concluded.