Innovation continues

11 March 2020

Innovation is a constant priority at Eurofins Agro. For example, we are currently working on DNA sequencing analysis for pathogens, pyrolysis of organic matter and analysis of organic fertilizers. Account Manager Horticulture Jan Hardeman gave a sneak preview at the Horti Expert Days in February 2020.

One of the projects we are currently working on is identifying the DNA of specific pathogens. This is important for producing an even more accurate diagnosis, particularly since our PlantDoctors are sometimes unable to ascertain what the primary pathogen of an attack was.

Hardeman: “In cases such as these, it is useful to have new methods available alongside our routine analyses. We are therefore working on developing a DNA sequencing analysis. This technique enables us to determine the unique sequence of the base pairs A-T and C-G in the DNA of fungi and bacteria. We can then check this information against a database. DNA sequencing analysis enables our PlantDoctors to determine accurately and reliably what triggered the damage attack when the symptoms are ambiguous. The DNA sequences of a number of fungi are already available, such as Cylindrocarpon and Phomopsis in rose, Neofusicoccum parvum in blueberry and Chaetomium globosum in substrates.”

Quality of organic matter

Another innovative project that Eurofins Agro researchers are working on is a technique for identifying the quality of organic matter using pyrolysis. The stability of organic matter is an important quality aspect, particularly when it comes to improving soil fertility.

Innovation continuesThe stability of organic matter depends among other things on its carbon and nitrogen content. Pyrolysis separates organic matter into different carbon and nitrogen fragments by burning it under anaerobic conditions. The gases released during this process are then passed through a gas chromatograph. This device analyses these gasses and produces a graph showing various peaks.

Each peak represents a particular fragment in the organic matter. This information can then be used to determine the origin of the material, such as plant material or microorganisms.

“This technique is currently  developing rapidly,” Hardeman says. “At the moment we are working on mapping out the functions of the various fragments in the soil. We are optimistic about the opportunities that organic matter pyrolysis offers. For example, in a trial with blanched celery we identified a pyrolysis fragment that had a clear connection with crop growth and development. A difference in yield of as much as 30% was demonstrated when this component was present in the soil.”

Analysis of organic fertilizers

A third innovation we are working on is the analysis of organic fertilizers. There is a great deal of interest in the use of these fertilizers among growers. “These fertilizers are very prone to mineralization, however, and the degradation products of organic material can cause blockages in the drippers and pipes,” Hardeman says. Mineralization is affected by pH, moisture and oxygen levels, temperature and the presence of bacteria. An analysis of the composition of a fertilizer can reveal whether pH buffering is needed to further stabilize it, for example.

He says: “It is not only organic fertilizers themselves that we can analyze. We can also investigate the precipitation in pipes and drippers that causes blockages. If you know what is causing a blockage and how it came about, you can take action to prevent it.”

“We are constantly working on developing new methods and services that will enable us to support growers even better. Another example is the website, which provides instructions for submitting samples from abroad. By offering this service we are making it easier to request an analysis the correct way and obtain reliable analysis results,” Hardeman concludes.