COP26 Summit and sustainable farming: how the SwiftDetect rapid crop disease detection test can help

07 December 2021

In every industry, reducing carbon footprints and considering the environment is a leading challenge that is only accelerating. Agriculture – which, along with forestry and other land use, accounts for almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions - is arguably at the front line of this challenge, under increasing pressure over the use of chemicals and other unsustainable practices.

Agriculture and the COP26 Summit

At the recent COP26 summit in Glasgow – the United Nations’ 26th climate change conference – agriculture was one of the key topics discussed. New agreements were secured to help promote sustainable agricultural practices, by enhancing accessibility and increasing affordability compared to less sustainable methods.

In fact, 45 Governments pledged urgent action and investment to help shift to more sustainable ways of farming. Additionally, 26 nations set out new commitments to make agricultural policies more sustainable, committing to an investment in science needed to support this and protect food supplies.

A sustainable future for the UK

For the UK, additional goals have been announced to support agriculture. By 2030, the UK aims to engage 75% of farmers in low carbon practices. When you consider that there are around 192,000 farms in the UK, this is an ambitious yet important goal in promoting sustainability within British farming.

To support these goals, the UK has agreed further investment; for example, £500m to support the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) roadmap, which will promote trade whilst protecting the environment. In addition, new funding of £38.5m will support the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) over 2 years, to help develop resistant crop varieties, more productive practices, and policies to help enhance accessibility to technology for smaller farms.

Why the emphasis on technology?

With the population set to reach 9.1 billion in 2050, global food production will need to increase by 70% compared to 2007. When then considering rising temperatures and higher incidences of extreme weather events as a result of global warming, farmers will also be battling with a reduced productivity if practices don’t change.

Technology may be the answer to both of these issues; innovations can help growers learn more about their land, improve efficiency and increase productivity in a sustainable way. This will help farmers meet demand, whilst reducing environmental impact. Technology is already improving, however, it remains inaccessible to smaller farms or developing countries. That’s why the increased investment pledged in COP26 is so important.

SwiftDetect: technology of the future, available now

A new technology created to help farmers save money, protect yield, and help the environment in the battle against crop disease is SwiftDetect. A unique rapid disease detection test, SwiftDetect was initially developed as a pharmaceutical sterility test, meaning it has enhanced sensitivity and a fast turnaround time of just 1 business day.

Currently able to detect Septoria, Yellow Rust, Brown Rust and Mildew in wheat, as well as Ramularia in barley, the test helps users by:

  • Providing an early warning of disease: SwiftDetect is so sensitive that it can identify disease before visible signs emerge, meaning growers can react sooner
  • Quantifying the level of disease: so fungicide doses can be tailored according to disease level rather than blanket sprayed. Also, spray timings can be based on disease level rather than growth stage, improving effectiveness of treatment
  • Allowing for comparison of different varieties and treatments: so growers can have confidence before switching to a resistant variety or more sustainable farming method that it is more effective

We previously mentioned two future challenges for agriculture – demand and climate change – for which the knowledge SwiftDetect provides will be crucial. Spread and severity of crop disease goes hand in hand with the weather, so as the climate changes, we are likely to see diseases spreading to new regions and become more severe. The ability to detect disease and get an early warning will make SwiftDetect a useful tool for farmers and agronomists to counter this. In terms of productivity, the ability to react sooner when disease is present and tailor doses according to level of disease will protect yield, therefore helping reduce losses.

If you are interested in learning about SwiftDetect, find out more today.