WP 6 - Development of non-targeted water surveillance methods for water-borne tree pathogens based on metagenomic approaches ('Water surveillance')

Workpackage 6

Partners: David Cooke (JHI), Studholme (Exeter), Boonham (Fera)

Some important tree pathogens such as Phytophthora are particularly difficult to detect but have an active water-borne phase in their disease cycle. We plan to exploit this and develop tools for water surveillance that will complement existing plant health inspection and testing in two ways. They will 1) enable the efficient sampling of multiple plants by catching and filtering water that has drained through their root systems and 2) use a generic detection technology that is capable of detection all known Phytophthora species. Current testing regimes rely on visual inspection or, if there are disease symptoms, use detection assays that target specific quarantine pathogen species. Such tests will not pick up latent pathogen infection and cannot detect novel pathogen species that may pose a serious risk to UK trees. Our technology is based on filtration, very sensitive Phytophthora-specific DNA barcode amplification and high-throughput DNA sequencing. The sampling and detection technology has already proven effective for research use but in this project we will further develop its practical application for plant health monitoring at UK ports and airports and develop an analysis pipeline for more rapid interpretation of the large amounts of DNA sequence data that are generated.