Researchers develop rapid TR4 detection test
Researchers have developed a new test to rapidly detect banana disease Fusarium Wilt Tropical Race 4 (TR4).
A research team led by Professor Gert Kema at Wageningen University & Research (WUR) came up with the process. It was recently tested in Colombia, where authorities confirmed TR4 was present in early August.
The WUR test is faster and more practical than laboratory tests. It allows the industry to take immediate measures once suspect plants test positive for the fungus in order to prevent further spreading.
Importance of rapid TR4 detection
In technical terms, the test is a “Loop-Mediated Isothermal Amplification assay”. Abbreviated as LAMP, it involves taking a piece of tissue to isolate DNA and placing it into the shoe-box sized testing device.
When it was trialed in Colombia, it swiftly tested positive.
As well as diagnosis more quickly, the test combines multiple methods of previous testing to make the process more efficient.
It has never previously been possible to diagnose TR4 this quickly, which marks an "important step" for banana growers.
Further, the team noted that the main benefit of the LAMP test is its flexibility in the field.
"The main benefit of the new LAMP test is that it has a handy size and can be used in the field," Kema said.
"It is no longer necessary to employ a laboratory to analyse the samples. In principle, any company active in banana farming can purchase the device, train its employees and deploy it immediately."
Fast test results mean that growers can establish quarantine measures within an hour of testing, he added.
WUR’s research team held training sessions with groups in Colombia and the Philippines to measure if the test was simple enough to perform. Their findings revealed that the test is “fast and easy” to do.
TR4 has been disastrous, frequently destroying entire banana plantations around the world.