Vancouver, BC — High quality tree fruit production requires plants to be free of harmful pests and diseases: early detection of viruses in domestic crops and trees is critical. If plants are deemed infected they will be rejected on the export market which has serious knock-on effects to the local economy and puts other markets at risk. In Canada the strawberry plant industry is valued at $17 million and tree fruits in Canada generate over $240 million in revenue. On the other hand, any plants imported into Canada has an average testing period of 3 years to ensure they are virus free, and this lengthy time frame can put Canadian growers at a competitive disadvantage.
Damage caused by viruses and virus-like pathogens can be very serious. Two new projects, funded in part by Genome British Columbia, will apply cutting-edge genomics tools to the problem of early detection. Both projects are led by Michael Rott of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the projects are both working with end-users: Phyto Diagnostics and the BC Blueberry Council for the project looking at strawberry plant exports, and Summerland Varieties Corporation and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre for virus detection of stone-fruit tree imports.
“The CFIA is committed to researching and implementing innovative DNA-based genomic technologies that improve the competitiveness of Canadian growers and safeguard Canada’s plant resources”, says Dr. Michael Rott, Research Scientist, CFIA.
The projects will develop and validate next generation sequencing (NGS) methods to use plant or tree tissues and test for specific viruses required for international market clearance. The key aspect of both of these projects is that the partnership enables research to translate directly into action. The NGS methods will be put into action as soon as they are validated. This new technology could help reduce the testing period from months to days.
“Canadian import/export markets will be stronger and more competitive because of these genomics based tools,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors. “Early detection of pathogens and viruses is a vital outcome of genomics and it is being applied across many key economic sectors.”
These two projects, with a combined value of close to $500,000 are funded by Genome BC, the CFIA, Summerland Varieties Corporation and the BC Cherry Association. For more information on Genome BC’s funding programs, visit www.genomebc.ca.