Using DNA technology, University of Georgia (UGA) scientists are working to develop a quicker, easier way to detect pathogens on plant seeds.

“We started this project in light of our nation's concern over biosecurity,” says Ron Walcott, a plant pathologist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Our goal is to develop a system that can detect pathogens in seeds, whether they were put there intentionally or unintentionally during the seed production process.”

Iowa State and Clemson scientists will work with Walcott on the four-year project. It will be funded with a $900,000 grant from the USDA National Research Initiative's animal and plant biosecurity program.

The current methods used to screen seeds for fungi, bacteria and viruses can take weeks.

A goal of this project is to develop a test that would be used to detect all seed pathogens. The new test would only take one day, he says. The method uses DNA and RNA to detect the presence of pathogens.