Sclerotinia Biosensor Could Text You When It’s Time to Spray

January 5, 2017

Timing is critical when it comes to managing a disease like sclerotinia in canola, so

The concept of real-time disease monitoring with nano biosensors that can communicate with your cell phone might sound futuristic, but the steps in the process have been proven to work in a lab setting in Alberta.

“This is close to reality…all the parts are in place, we just need to put them together,” explains Xiujie (Susie) Li, senior research scientist with InnoTech Alberta in Vegreville.

Susie Li of InnoTech Alberta at the 2016 Manitoba Agronomists Conference.

At the heart of the biosensor is a 3.5 by 2.5 cm chip that was designed for medical analysis of DNA or proteins. By applying sclerotinia antibodies to the sensor, it can single out the target antigen. In this case the target is sclerotinia spores, but Li says it could also work for blackleg disease.

Research conducted in a growth chamber has shown the device can detect as few as five sclerotinia spores, as nanoparticles attached to the antibodies signal the spore population: “That we think is good enough for spore detection for disease, because you probably have more than that to determine a disease outbreak,” says Li.

They’ve also shown the signal from the nanoparticles can be processed electronically and converted into sharable data, such as an iPhone message when a defined threshold is reached.

Working with researchers at the University of Alberta, Li says they plan to connect the links in the process and bring them out to the field for testing in 2017. Further research is needed to determine and verify the correlation between spore counts and a disease outbreak, and how many sensors are required to accurately report sclerotinia pressure for a given area.

The retail cost for the sensor technology will be determined if or when it’s commercialized, but the components are affordable, notes Li.

“Each chip we use for the sensor is only $10. So it depends how many chips you need for the field,” she says. “It’s not as expensive as people think.”

The sclerotinia spore detector project is funded by the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, the Alberta Crop Industry Development Fund, Alberta Innovations Technology Futures and InnoTech Alberta.

Thanks to Real Agriculture for generously sharing this content.

Visit Real for more agricultural news, videos and podcasts


Upcoming Events

Grower Engagement Meeting - Lethbridge

Alberta Canola is hosting four Grower Engagement Meetings across Alberta during November & December 2021.
Nov 17
Lethbridge, Alberta

Grower Engagement Meeting - Nisku

Alberta Canola is hosting four Grower Engagement Meetings across Alberta during November & December 2021.
Nov 23
Nisku, Alberta

The Agricultural Excellence Conference

AgEx is the only event in Canada dedicated exclusively to bringing farm management enthusiasts together to build their business acumen. This year’s theme, The Challenge of Change, is about acknowledging that change...
Nov 24 - Nov 26
Online, Webinar
Know Your Grade for Canola

Join our mailing list to receive important news and event updates!

Subscribe to our newsletters