SwiftDetect: unique rapid detection of crop disease

09 September 2021

Arable farming contributes £4.2 billion annually to the UK economy, provides over 100,000 jobs and is a way of life for many across the country. That’s why it’s just so devastating when crop diseases such as Septoria take hold, reducing both quality and yield and thus costing farmers – and the wider economy – millions each year.

Whilst there are fungicides on the market to help prevent or treat crop disease, there are several challenges for growers relating to their use. Firstly, fungicides are expensive; farmers often have no choice but to budget thousands of pounds for their fungicide program. Secondly, with the Government clamping down on the use of certain fungicides due to environmental concerns, farmers are at risk of losing effective treatments. Finally, growers often use blanket sprays to prevent disease as they are not always aware if it is present, and to what extent. This is not only an issue for the above reasons but could lead to resistance in crops.

Which leads nicely on to SwiftDetect.

Created by Microgenetics, an independent company, SwiftDetect is a unique rapid detection test that’s able to identify disease in crops. Using a patented method, it’s the only test of its kind available on the market. But what makes it so special, is that it can identify crop disease before it’s even visible on the leaf. Moreover, it also quantifies the level of disease for users.

All this, with results within 1 business day, allowing growers to take action!

How accurate is SwiftDetect?

SwiftDetect is highly sensitive. Its patented method means that there is nothing else on the market like it that can provide such levels of accuracy. In fact, if you have even a few active pathogen cells in your crop for the disease being tested, we’re confident that it’ll be picked up.

SwiftDetect is so accurate that when you look at the average Septoria scores across all wheat samples we received this season (see graph below), you can see how it corresponds with the weather over the period.

We had a wet, cool May, with average rainfall of 119.5mm and a temperature of 9.2 degrees. Under these conditions, the spread of Septoria is limited, which you can see reflected by the SwiftDetect score. This was followed by an increasingly hot and humid period, with an average rainfall of 43.2mm and temperature of 14.2 degrees as we went into June. These conditions meant Septoria sprung out of the latent period and spread, resulting in the increase shown on the graph below.

SwiftDetect

How does the insight from SwiftDetect benefit growers?

We mentioned previously how blanket sprays are used by farmers to help prevent or treat crop disease. Without the insight from SwiftDetect, the dose used may be too high for the actual level of disease present in your crop. This not only means you are spending more on fungicides than necessary but could lead to the development of fungicide resistance.

Alternatively, disease levels may actually be higher than you think, in which case your dose could be too low. This season, for example, we have seen low to medium levels of Septoria even in resistant varieties; without the test, our customers may have not sprayed at all, or sprayed a dose too low. In which case, when disease springs out of control, the crop could be at risk.

By using SwiftDetect, fungicides can be used more efficiently and effectively, tailored to the level of disease in the crop. This saves money, helps the environment but importantly, protects yield.

In addition to this, SwiftDetect provides growers with an early warning of the disease. We’ve mentioned how sensitive the test is - it can detect diseases such as Septoria even in the latent period, before visible signs emerge. Armed with this knowledge, you can act fast – before any damage is done.

What diseases it can detect?

We’ve just ended our first SwiftDetect season, where we were offering the service for Septoria in wheat. But we’ll be back again in March 2022, with even more tests available. You’ll be able to test for:

  • Septoria in wheat
  • Mildew in wheat
  • Yellow Rust in wheat
  • Brown Rust in wheat
  • Ramularia in Barley

All with the same 1 business day turnaround and super sensitivity.

In the future, we will also be developing SwiftDetect to identify diseases in other crops too, from Oil Seed Rape to oats.

If you are interested in hearing more about the tests available next season and would like to register your interest, click here!