The researchers came up with the DNA reagents to detect agrobacterium, an incurable soil pathogen that causes crown gall in tree fruits and grape vines, among other plants. The bacterium attacks through wounds, spreads through pruning blades and saws, scrambles the victim plant’s genetics and causes cancer-like tumors to grow.
However, other problems, such as insect damage and fungal diseases, cause similar symptoms. The new development puts growers one step closer to diagnosing crown gall in their own fields from, say, the back of their pickup, instead of sending a sample to a laboratory.
In theory, growers could use OSU’s DNA reagents, developed by Chang’s Master’s student Skylar Fuller, on a strip of paper that, when exposed to the bacterium, would develop a dark band — similar to a positive reaction of a pregnancy test. The kit comes as a dried pellet, that growers would use with the DNA reagents.
For it all to work, the growers would have to carry around another commercially available kit that allows them to macerate plant tissue on site.
Ross Courtney is an associate editor for Good Fruit Grower, writing articles and taking photos for the print magazine and website. He has a degree from Pacific Lutheran University. -- Follow the author -- Contact: 509-930-8798 or email.