Using next generation sequencing to provide Australia's plant industry quick-access to new plant genetic material

A joint-levy funded project is facilitating faster and more accurate screening methods on imported nursery planting stock to allow for the introduction of new genetic material that will help maintain diversity in changing environmental conditions, shoring up the future sustainability of the nursery industry.

‘Improving plant industry access to new genetics through faster and more accurate diagnostics using next generation sequencing’ (MT18005) project, is seeking to improve plant industry access to new genetics by enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of virus detection at post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facilities.

Led by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the project is assessing next generation sequencing technologies to develop a tool for use by plant pathologists that will improve current practices and enable more efficient plant screenings; offering a cost-effective solution to importing new and larger panels of genetic stock.

Project update
In order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of virus detection in plant genetic material in post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facilities, the project is reviewing best-practice techniques and standards that utilise High Throughput Sequencing (HTS) to determine its effectiveness at detecting viruses and viroids.

Undergoing a robust assessment will enable the project team to compare the accuracy between HTS methods and the PEQ protocols currently being utilised in Australia facilities, to determine which is more effective at detecting viruses and bacteria in plant samples.

Initial pilot comparisons of these methods using control quarantined plants, including nursery stock, has presented strong results, putting project deliverables on track to be met.

The project team continues to meet with the Reference Group, comprising industry stakeholders, government and Hort Innovation to provide future direction to the project.

The annual workshop is expected to be held in Melbourne at the end of 2020, seeking to engage industry and government stakeholders in surveillance and diagnostics through presentations and hands-on training workshops. Be sure to keep an eye out for further project and event updates.

Source: Your Levy at Work

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