Scientists and Farmers Looking to Soil DNA to Fight Crop Diseases



Farmers are looking to DNA soil testing to help fight infectious crop diseases.

Sand, loam, and clay are the three different types of topsoil. If that first layer is healthy, chances are the rest of the soil will be strong and able to fight off crop diseases. If any part of the soil is unhealthy, however, that jeopardizes the health of the soil, the crop, and the entire land.

According to The Inverell Times, farmers are hoping to use DNA soil testing to identify various crop diseases. They believe doing so could improve profits, as well as the overall health of the land.

It’s estimated that root diseases cost farmers more than $200 million every year due to lost crop production.

“DNA testing soil samples can detect all sorts of different diseases caused by either bacteria, fungi and nematodes,” said Robert Long, an agronomist. “Essentially growers and advisors will get a risk rating for a wide range of pathogens including root lesion nematodes, crown rot, rhizoctonia, common root rot in wheat and now also ascochyta and phytophthora in chickpeas.”

Science Daily adds that scientists and researchers have been finding other hidden clues in DNA, that could lead to improving farmland.

“When we see a cactus, we know we are in a desert, when we see a palm tree we know we are in the tropics, and when we see a grass we could be almost anywhere,” added Dr. Kelly Ramirez, researcher from Netherlands Institute of Ecology and The University of Manchester. “This same idea, that species indicate a habitat, is true for soils, but instead of using plants we use soil bacteria.”

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