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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania » Eastern Regional Research Center » Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogens Research » Research » Research Project #438930

Research Project: Handheld Device for Assessing Plant Health

Location: Molecular Characterization of Foodborne Pathogens Research

Project Number: 8072-42000-093-003-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 31, 2020
End Date: Dec 1, 2021

Huanglongbing is a devastating citrus disease with no known cure. It’s spread by an insect present in most citrus-producing areas of the U.S. Therefore, locations like California that do not presently have the disease in commercial groves are on high alert, spending millions of dollars annually for prevention. Early disease detection can help identify efficient strategies for deploying the limited resources critical for effective containment. The current industry standard for detection involves a lab-based real-time PCR method. To aide producers, we propose to develop a device that can be utilized in the field for early detection of Huanglongbing. The device can potentially be used to screen trees on-site to more effectively identify areas that merit further evaluation.

The approach is to build a novel handheld sensor that measures mechanical changes within the leaves post infection and provide a cost-effective solution for monitoring for HLB without the need for consumables. In addition, the technology will be paired with an easily interpretable smart phone app to provide immediate results interpretable by all, allowing growers to make prompt decisions. Deployment of this portable detection device could revolutionize HLB detection because it would allow detection be performed in the field, which significantly reduces both costs and time associated with shipping samples. Furthermore, although proof-of-principle will be shown by detecting HLB, additional research could prove the device capable of identifying the signatures of other plant pathogens or possibly as a gauge for overall plant health that could be employed at ports or points of entry to ascertain the need to quarantine plants upon arrival in the US or those crossing state lines, respectively.