Diagnosis of six Armillaria species

Pest & Pathogen Diagnostics

Accurate and timely identification of plant diseases is important for many aspects of agriculture from correct diagnosis of field symptoms to their study as part of research programmes. Molecular methods are being increasingly utilised in the detection and study of plant pathogens, with the advent of real-time PCR further enhancing this area allowing faster, more sensitive and quantitative detection. With these advances has come an increase in the adoption of such technology in support of crop management decisions. 

Recent/current research projects include:

Barley Genotyping

Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are the smallest unit of genetic variation and are abundant in animal and plant genomes. They are an excellent choice for studies on plant genetics and breeding. Many SNPs have been discovered in the barley genome and it is hoped that shortly SNPs will be identified that are directly linked to key traits measured during the DUS testing of varieties. At SASA we are using the relatively new method of temperature switch PCR (TSP) to differentiate barley varieties on the basis of their SNPs.


Control of soil-borne potato diseases using Brassica spp. Mediated Biofumigation

With increasing amounts of pressure put on to growers to cut their use of potential environmental hazardous pesticides and fumigants, a considerable amount of interest is being shown within alternative methods of pathogen and pest control.  One such method has been termed Biofumigation.  It is a method that exploits toxic compounds that are already naturally released via glucosinolate hydrolysis which occurs during the breakdown of Brassica plant tissues. 

Virus Characterisation

SASA uses molecular biology techniques in its research on viruses – this research includes topics such as identification, detection and variability of viral species. Such research is usually conducted in collaboration with other scientists with specialisms such as virology and antibody production. We participate in molecular characterisation studies of Scottish potato viruses isolated during crop surveillance (e.g. Browning et al., 2004). Mortensen et al.


Soil-borne viruses of potato - Potato mop-top virus (PMTV) and Tobacco rattle virus (TRV)

Both Potato mop-top virus (PMTV) and Tobacco rattle virus (TRV) cause spraing symptoms (necrotic arcs or lines) in the flesh of infected tubers. Such symptoms severely affect the marketability of tubers for the export, processing and packing markets. TRV-induced spraing is indistinguishable from PMTV-induced spraing, highlighting the importance of diagnostic testing in determining the cause of infection.

Potato Cyst Nematode

Potato Cyst Nematodes: New Legislation, New Technology

New Legislation

Bere Barley Genotyping

Bere barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a traditional Scottish barley landrace that is still grown using a traditional system by growers mainly in the islands. It is probably the oldest cereal ‘variety’ grown commercially in Europe and possibly the world. Bere barley has adapted to enable it to grow in the poorer acidic soils found on in Northern Scotland and there is renewed interest in its use in breeding programs.

Bere barley samples from the Scottish islands were collected and analysed using 29 microsatellite markers.

Potato Genotyping

The European Union Common Catalogue (EUCC) for potato contains over 1,000 varieties. Each year member states add varieties to the list after they have undergone Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability (DUS) testing according to international guidelines. Identification of cultivars by morphological characteristics is a highly skilled and time-consuming task.


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