Growers asked to help develop fungi early warning system

Tomato producers are being asked to send leaves with a substantial amount of powdery mildew on them
Tomato producers are being asked to send leaves with a substantial amount of powdery mildew on them

An agricultural researcher is appealing to tomato growers across the UK to send in leaves infected with powdery mildew.

It is part of research looking to design tools that can detect and identify fungal diseases within the glasshouse - before they take hold.

According to PhD student Anastasia Sokolidi, the system will eventually help growers decide when and what type of fungicide to spray.

“I am working on designing a DNA based assay that will be able to identify which type of powdery mildew is present, if at all," she said.



"This technology will be used in combination with a spore sampler that will allow for early detection before it infects the plant.

“In addition, the DNA based assay developed from this project could also be used to analyse samples in the lab or be coupled with other samplers as a speedy diagnostic tool.”



The project, in collaboration with the University of Warwick and Waitrose, is looking to develop a DNA based test for airborne spores from several pathogens, including the two UK strains of tomato powdery mildews, Pseudoidium neolycopersici and Leveillula taurica.

Ms Sokolidi explained that tomato powdery mildews were one of the main reasons that tomato growers applied fungicide on their crops in the UK.

"By the end of the project, we hope to be able to better detect and control the spread of fungal pathogens of tomatoes in the horticultural industry,” she added.

Tomato producers are being asked to send leaves with a substantial amount of powdery mildew on them, and in return, will be able to provide information as to which species of powdery mildew it is.

“I will need to know what region of the UK the leaves were collected from," she said, adding that it was necessary to improve her assay.

"It will allow me too to understand whether the assay is specific to the various strains of powdery mildews within the UK and how sensitive the assay is.”

She is requesting any growers wishing to take part to send infected green leaves tucked between kitchen roll.



For more information or to take part contact Anastasia Sokolidi on anastasia.sokolidi@rothamsted.ac.uk.