Canadian college Seneca, in partnership with Ottawa-based Evik Diagnostic Innovations Inc., is working to develop a quick diagnostic test for the citrus disease HLB.
Frank Merante, professor in Seneca’s School of Biological Sciences & Applied Chemistry, is the principal investigator for the project. The idea behind the research was to develop a simple way for growers to test crops and identify the problem quickly. The concept is similar to a do-it-yourself COVID-19 test. The research team is also working on a more sophisticated lab test that would provide growers with detailed information.
The challenge with HLB is that infected trees may not show any symptoms for months or years. Early detection could help growers remove infected trees and prevent the spread.
Evik specializes in diagnostic tests that can be done anywhere at room temperature. The company has focused on human disease for years and is now expanding into agriculture, according to Vladimir Evtodienko, Evik’s chief executive officer.
Having worked on a number of projects with Seneca over the years, Evtodienko was keen to partner with Seneca again. “It’s been very useful,” Evtodienko said, adding that he appreciates the industry perspective that Seneca brings to projects. “They’ve already given me some semi-final results, which are very impressive.”
Merante said the research is a win-win situation for Seneca and companies such as Evik. “I am optimistic the tests will be a success,” he said. “And maybe they could be used for other crops in the future.”
HLB is a bacterial disease spread by the Asian citrus psyllid. It is a serious threat to citrus industries around the world. Since HLB was discovered in Florida in 2005, it has caused drastic reductions in the state’s citrus production and acreage.
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