Is it possible that next wave of pest surveillance in Australia could be a mobile spore sampler? Insect Suction Traps and Mobile Jet Spore Samplers are part of surging smart pest trapping technologies which have been trailed in South Australia. SARDI- SA Research & Development Institute has begun the field testing of Mobile Jet Spore Sampler, a device which is first of its kind to be pinned to a moving vehicle. The smart technology, setting apart Mobile Jet Spore Sampler is the capability of collecting samples at pre-determined time, GPS locations, humidity or temperature settings, enabling scientists to control what & when they are collecting. This technology is also capable of detecting rare influxes of pathogens, for example- exotic incursions, which is difficult to detect via traditional trapping systems.
The sampler could be driven across sucking-up airborne fungal pathogens which are 45 times greater than standard fixed trap technology. Senior research scientist at SARDI, Dr. Rohan Kimber, stated that this technology is capable of becoming a game-changer for ways in which airborne diseases and pests are monitored across Australia. It is necessary for the farmers to determine the occurrence of diseases or pests, and also their growth in numbers. He stated that, the faster the information is provided to the farmers with an understanding of the place where a disease’s presence might increase at a particular time, the faster the farmers will be able to respond.
The researchers believe that it is highly possible to attach Mobile Jet Spore Samplers to school buses, consultant’s vehicles, or courier vehicles, submitting air samples quickly to the molecular diagnostic centre of SARDI for quicker analysis. Dr. Kimber stated that this is likely to impact the selection of fungicide timings by farmers, not only the time of application. Sometimes, low levels could be as valuable as high returns. The development of Insect Suction Trap is also under focus of the team. It was utilised in the previous year for monitoring aphid incursion of a Russian wheat. In that instance, similar smart technology was applied by scientists for identifying insects of interest from variety of bugs. The researchers were even capable of identifying a single aphid specifically from whole collection of insects, from bees & moths to tiny aphids & midges.
Dr. Kimber stated that although gold standard if the insect samplers & identification was possessed by UK-based Rothamsted Research, the identification was performed visually under microscope with a team of people for sorting through the samples. Dr. Kimber said that they wanted to approach this identification from point of view of utilising molecular assays, where their strengths really are. The technologies that were developed monitored two types of pathogens viz. endemic- the ones already managed by growers annually- and the exotic- ones that Australia requires to be continuously monitored for but is free from. A great example of an endemic disease discerned to be monitored is spot of net blotch, whereas an example of exotic disease is the barley stripe rust. These trails on insect trapping technology is revolutionising grain pest battles across the country.