Mologic and Newcastle University launch BReD diagnostic for blackgrass resistance

Mologic Ltd, a developer of personalised diagnostics, and Newcastle University, have announced they have developed an on-farm blackgrass resistance diagnostic (BReD). The one-step, rapid lateral flow product for detecting glutathione transferase (AmGSTF1) concentrations in blackgrass has been developed by Mologic based on pioneering work on the chemical control of this weed carried out by Prof Rob Edwards’ research group at Newcastle University. Obtaining clear information on herbicide resistance via a quick and simple test empowers the farm to make informed decisions to save time and costs.

Blackgrass (Alopecurus myosuroides) is a major agronomic problem in weed control for UK growers, with multiple herbicide resistance leading to losses in national wheat production estimated at £0.5 billion a year. Current testing methods require seeds or plants to be sent off site for herbicide screening, resulting in delays in making informed decisions about control options. BReD allows farmers and agronomists to map non-target site herbicide resistance in blackgrass populations across the farm, providing information for growers to make immediate adjustments to blackgrass control and giving rapid feedback on the effectiveness of weed control measures.

BReD uses Mologic’s lateral flow technology to detect levels of AmGSTF1, a quantitative functional biomarker of non-target site resistance (NTSR), found in high concentrations in populations of blackgrass that have evolved resistance to multiple classes of herbicides. If the AmGSTF1 protein is present, an intense red band appears in a small window on the hand-held device within 5 minutes.

Mitch Brooker, General Manager at Mologic said: “Mologic has a proud history in forming lasting partnerships with both academic and commercial organisations. We are excited to bring BReD to the field as this is the first non-IVD product to be taken from development through to manufacture and commercialisation by our team. Mologic plans to advance towards extending its portfolio of innovative agricultural diagnostic devices.”

“Working with Prof Edwards and his colleagues at Newcastle University has provided access to pioneering research, which when combined with our innovative lateral flow technology has enabled us to deliver BReD, a world first in on-farm technologies, giving agronomists and farmers a real measure of the degree of non-target site herbicide resistance in their blackgrass populations and enabling the farm to make informed decisions.”

BReD is founded on 20 years of research into the chemical control of this weed carried out by Rob Edwards’ research group.

Prof Rob Edwards, Professor of Agriculture and Director of the Institute for Agri-Food Research and Innovation (IAFRI) at Newcastle University said:

“Early-indication diagnostic tests are common place in medicine, such as for pregnancy or diabetes, and are used to help people make decisions much earlier on with the aim of improving the long-term outcome. It should be no different in agriculture.”

“This new diagnostic tool marks an important step in our fight against resistance, using the latest research to deliver solutions in crop protection.”

“It is an approach we have termed ‘personalised agriculture’ and BReD represents the first in a series of diagnostics we are working on to counteract resistance and emerging disease in the agricultural setting.”

Prof Edwards’ research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), as part of the Black-Grass Resistance Initiative (BGRI), a partnership with Rothamsted Research, Sheffield and York Universities and the Institute of Zoology.

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The story has been featured in Technology Networks.