New crop disease early warning systems to be developed

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Scientists at Rothamsted Research are to begin work on two projects, both of which will focus on the real time detection of fungal disease pressure in cereal and rape crops.

Conceived to alert farmers and growers prior to visible symptoms actually developing within crops, the work should aid the timely application of fungicides.

The first project is called Arable Alert. This aims to produce an automated air sampling device, which will be able to use a DNA-based method to detect spores of key pathogens and associated genetic traits such as fungicide resistance. 

The results will be sent by text, along with weather data to a web-based information portal, which will be accessible to growers.

The devices can be operated as a network (to enhance information quality). IT systems will augment currently available infection models with the information on airborne spore presence to produce a disease risk alert in time for application of crop protection products.

The research will use two new automated devices, plus a network of traditional disease warning systems, to provide general information on disease risk regionally.