Septoria Vs SwiftDetect: how a new rapid detection test could help to save the UK’s cereal crops

02 March 2020

Septoria is often considered to be the biggest threat to UK cereal crops, however, this threat could soon be reduced by a new detection test developed by Microgenetics.

What is Septoria?

Septoria affects the ability of wheat to produce energy, by reducing green leaf area for photosynthesis. With a long ‘latent’ period, the infection may grow inside the leaf for over 20 days before being visible on the surface as yellow blotches and black dots. Some wheat varieties are more susceptible to Septoria than others, and the risk of infection is increased by wet and windy weather which impacts the physical spread of the spores. Causing yield losses in excess of 30%, it is considered the most damaging disease on wheat in the UK.

How is Septoria currently detected?

Due to its long latent period, farmers or agronomists are often unaware that their crop is infected before it is too late. Whilst there are detection tests available for Septoria, it takes months to get results by which time the infection is visible and the crop lost. Farmers or agronomists therefore are instead forced to use expensive fungicides – even on crop not infected - as a means of prevention. This overuse of fungicides is not only financially costly but is increasingly making headlines as diseases are becoming resistant, only amplifying the threat of Septoria to cereal crops.

This is where Microgenetics SwiftDetect comes in - a new rapid detection test which could take over the farming world as fast as Septoria infects wheat.

What is SwiftDetect?

SwiftDetect was originally developed by Microgenetics for the pharmaceutical industry, as a rapid test for contamination of medicinal products; in this setting, it is able to detect a single cell of contamination of any kind. Microgenetics soon realised that SwiftDetect could benefit a range of industries, and so adapted the test to identify even early infections of Septoria where only a small amount of fungal matter is present, all in just 6 hours. As a result, farmers or agronomists sending samples using standard next day mail service will receive results as soon as 24 hours after posting.

How will rapid detection impact crop yield?

As SwiftDetect will allow farmers or agronomists to get accurate, up to date measurements for the level of Septoria in their crop, they will be able to fine-tune the type and dose of fungicide that they use. If a low level of Septoria is shown, for example, a more basic fungicide may be used. In turn, this will save money and prevent the over-use of advanced fungicides for when a higher level is identified. In this case, whilst the advanced fungicide with curative properties costs more, it could improve yield.

This has the potential to transform farming of cereal crops in the UK, preventing over-use of fungicides and reducing yield losses.

Having completed proof of concept work in 2019, Microgenetics are now looking for beta partners to contribute samples. Beta partners will receive their next day results free of charge. If you are interested, contact Andrew.Davies@microgenetics.co.uk for further information.

Microgenetics was formed in 2014 and is based in Corsham, Wiltshire. It is part of the UK’s fastest growing private pharmaceutical company which has a strong track record for innovation, the group having won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation in 2019. Visit our website today to find out more or to get in touch.