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Automated spore capture and decision support for air borne disease control

Neil Boonham: Fera Science Ltd

<div>Precision farming approaches to disease control require measurements of disease spread into the crop, enabling precise actions to be made. Frequently spraying is done prophylactically because fungicides have a more powerful preventative mode of action that curative properties. To enable more precise timing of spraying in wheat crops we developed an automated instrument (SporeSentry), capable of performing isothermal DNA amplification tests based on LAMP chemistry. The instrument is battery powered and facilitates 7-day autonomous sampling of airborne inoculum trapped using a novel cyclone air handling system. DNA is extracted from the airborne inoculum within a microfluidic liquid handling consumable, which then transfers the DNA to reaction tubes, pre-loaded with lyophilised reagents. LAMP tests are completed, and the results are reported using the phone network directly into a disease forecasting system enabling near real-time risk prediction. The instrument can perform up to 8 independent tests on each DNA sample, and LAMP assays are available for a range of diseases and crops. In the 2018 growing season, the instrument will be used in wheat crops alongside conventional spore sampling devices enabling performance comparisons of SporeSentry with established qPCR tests for septoria leaf blotch, brown and yellow rust and enabling exploration of improvements in disease control.</div>