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Rapid identification of crop pathogens with a smart analytical detector promises huge benefits for farming, the environment and our health

Many plant pathogens disperse in air across fields as spores of fungi, bacteria, or viruses, often carried on pollen, dust or organic fragments. Some can even survive extreme conditions and travel long distances, hopping continents at ease.

Farmers are naturally wary of them and, if there’s even a hint of the likelihood of a disease that could wreck crops, they will spray pesticides just to be on the safe side. But it’s a costly business, for the farmers and for the environment.

What farmers need is reliable information about the type and location of any infection in or near their fields, and they need that information quickly, preferably as an early warning. With such data to hand, they can spray more precisely and sparingly to protect their crops.

Plant pathologists at Rothamsted can sample large volumes of air...and transmit the result immediately