Monday, March 28, 2022
Alisa Boswell-Gore | Agricultural Communications Services | 405-744-7115 | email@example.com
Oklahoma State University Institute of Biosecurity and Microbial Forensics scientists are heading a national project geared toward creating more efficient diagnostic
practices for plant pathogens.
The $1 million project — funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture
— aims to safeguard U.S. production systems, ensure safe and beneficial trade, and
ensure food security and environmental protection.
Plant pathologists nationwide are already developing diagnostic tools for various
plant pathogens, said Kitty Cardwell, director of IBMF and professor of plant pathology. However, the information from
such research is dispersed across the nation and housed in several places.
“We want to coordinate efforts and make sure researchers have the resources they need
in one place instead of having this information scattered,” Cardwell said. “We want
to create this ecosystem of scientists and resources, so when a scientist needs to
develop a plant disease diagnostic test, they will have an easy place to find other
researchers working on the same organism and can access the reference standards and
genetic data they need.”
The Diagnostic Assay Validation Network (DAVN) will house information about researchers,
pathogen genetic data and diagnostic tools developed for plant pathogens. It will
catalog and categorize the information in a way that allows plant pathologists to
find the information quickly and efficiently.
“If there is an outbreak of an unknown plant disease, developing a verified test that
works properly can take years, so we hope by having this database, scientists can
use these resources to create a pathogen test more quickly,” Cardwell said.
Poonam Sharma, a researcher and assistant professor in molecular biology working on DAVN, said
getting an incorrect diagnosis for a plant pathogen or not having a test for a plant
pathogen can have a negative impact on agribusiness.
“U.S. agricultural biosecurity depends upon reliable diagnostic testing. If you don’t
have a validated test, it is difficult to diagnose accurately to control the disease,
and it becomes a risk for food security,” Sharma said. “DAVN will coordinate, standardize
and harmonize the plant disease diagnostic and validation research in the U.S.”
Cardwell said the National Center for Biotechnology Information currently houses DNA
and RNA information on plant pathogens, but it is a huge database containing sequences
for every kind of living organism and searching for information specific to plant
pathogens can be time consuming.
“The research done by our team will pull out specific pathogen DNA markers that could
be used in diagnostic tests,” she said. “The DAVN will give us a framework for a network
of scientists and the resources they need. The researchers can then continue to build
it and add to it.”
The American Phytopathological Society has agreed to house the database. This will help ensure the project’s success rate,
Cardwell said, because APS is a nationally recognized association that plant pathologists
regularly access for information.
Other countries have already developed such networks — the Valitest in Europe, for
example. Cardwell said European scientists worked with the IBMF, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture and other U.S. entities on the initial stages of this project, so the
nations can have similar language and understanding with pathogen test performance.
“It is important that we have a similar understanding of how tests are developed and
what’s needed to make a test accurate, because that helps trade due to the fact that
we understand and agree with each other about what tests we are using,” Cardwell said.
“We want to have the same understanding as a means of promoting safe and beneficial
trade and international collaboration.”
Cardwell provides more information about plant health and the damage caused by pathogens
in her National Plant Health Champion address online at the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.
OSU Ag Research is Oklahoma’s premier research and technology development agency in agriculture,
natural resources and the life sciences.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under award number 2022-68013-36537 for $985,739. Any
opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication
are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department