Kit to allow compost firms to test for beneficial organism

Compost improvements possible due to new testing kit.

A Devon-based company is close to releasing an antibody-based test kit that will help compost producers test for an organism that improves the quality of compost by attacking and destroying plant pathogens. Eco Diagnostics managing director Dr Andrew C Groenhof said the test for Trichoderma developed out of disease suppression work undertaken with Dr Chris Thornton at the University of Exeter over a number of years. During a study to see if there was any correlation with disease suppression and the bugs in compost, it was discovered that Trichoderma did help combat diseases. The Soil Sense test enables producers to check for the organism to work out whether materials it enjoys, such as cardboard and shellfish, can be added. “If you add these to compost as well as green waste, then Trichoderma will proliferate and you’ll almost have a guarantee that the compost is disease suppressive.” Prototypes are being tested and it is hoped the test will be available soon from www.soilsense.net. The company has also developed a similar test for the plant pathogen Rhizoctonia solani, which would have significant benefits for both the composting and potato- growing industries. Groenhof added: “Rhizoctonia causes a lot of damping-off diseases and black skurf in potatoes so it would be handy for potato growers or agronomists to check their fields to see if they were free of that before putting seeds in.”

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