Science Into Practice - Better tomato diagnostics

Root diseases pose a serious threat to tomato production, with an increased risk where irrigation run-off is recycled. HDC project PC 281 used the molecular diagnostic method T-RLFP to begin to understand the diversity of microorganisms on tomato roots.

Evidence is increasingly suggesting that microbial diversity on roots can benefit plant health through reducing root disease and inducing systemic resistance to some foliar pathogens, and these diagnostic methods are powerful tools.

The project aimed to build on these developments to improve detection and understanding of tomato root disease.

A microarray developed by the University of Nottingham was validated in PC 281a with 105 microorganisms. The primer sequence for each was designed for a particular microbial species or genus known to occur on tomato roots. In some cases the same sequence appeared in more than one of the microorganisms, resulting in a cross reaction (false-positive).

Eighteen of the probes were species specific and showed no or low level cross-reaction so were suitable for providing valid data. The microarray would increase in efficiency by increasing the number of these valid probes.

Real-time LAMP assays were also developed in this project. Probes for the target pathogens Botrytis cinera, Colletotrichum coccodes and Fusarium oxysporum were validated for this approach. The assays permit very accurate, sensitive and rapid (approximately 30 minutes) on-site diagnosis of these pathogens.

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