Rapid detection and diagnosis of plant pathogens

A project undertaken at the Research School of Biology, Australian National Universith, and supervised by Dr John Rathjen

We plan a project on sequencing-based diagnosis of crop diseases in near real time using mobile sequencing technologies. This will involve sampling of crops throughout the growing season, developing DNA extraction and sequencing protocols, and adaptation of existing informatic analysis pipelines. The pocket-sized sequencer known as the MinION will be the technology of choice, due to its relatively cheap cost, portability and generation of large numbers of long DNA sequencing reads. This will enable identification of known and novel microbes from field samples.

Figure 1. The researcher, Mr Yiheng Hu, is holding a wheat leaf heavily infected with the fungal pathogens that cause the devastating diseases stripe rust and septoria leaf blotch. Together these diseases cause millions of dollars in losses to the Australian wheat industry each year. Mr Hu is trialling cutting edge DNA sequencing technology for rapid identification of fungi on wheat leaves, which will help to control their spread, providing savings to Australian farmers.