HORTI+ 07: Development of a virus sensor

After a recent breakthrough, it seems only a matter of time before growers have a handy virus sensor that provides quick insight into the presence of pathogenic viruses in their water system. “We are still one hurdle away from a world first,” says project leader André van der Wurff of Normac Groen Agro Control. Together with Kees Koopal from Sendot Research, he provides an update on the daring project, the finish line of which is in sight. You can certainly call the ‘Development of virus sensor’ project daring. Because although a virus sensor in itself is not unique, the existing devices are far too large and too expensive to even consider practical use on horticultural companies.

Sensor functions

“Handy and affordable sensors for daily use on horticultural companies are simply not available,” says Van der Wurff. “While there is a great need for it worldwide, because water-borne viruses are a growing problem in professional horticulture and limit the options for recirculating water. Glastuinbouw Nederland and Plantum have recognized this and made this complex project possible. We are very pleased to have cleared another crucial hurdle. The virus sensor has been implemented and is functioning. That in itself is a world first. For repeated use in practice, we now have one more hurdle to overcome: rinsing the detector.”

Active and inactive virulent material

The project leader tells his story together with Kees Koopal, R&D manager at sensor builder Sendot Research. “It took blood, sweat and tears to translate the large, existing laboratory concept into a handy, well-functioning practical instrument that provides clarity in almost real time,” says Koopal. “For the first time, fiber optics is used, in which our company specializes.” Visual detection is accomplished by loading the detector with antibodies and bringing it into contact with water that may contain virulent material. These bind to the antibodies and are treated with a fluorescent substance with freely present secondary antibodies. This makes them ‘readable’ for the optical sensor. What is special is that the sensor can distinguish between active (strongly bound) and inactive (weakly bound) virulent material. That distinction is essential, as explained in previous publications. See the links below this article.

One more step needed

“Based on this principle, the sensor can detect Cucumber Spot Virus, PlamV and Tulip Virus-X with specific antibodies,” Van der Wurff continues. “What still needs to be developed is a regeneration method. This is a flushing method that allows us to discharge the detector so that it is clean and ready for the next measurement. This requires more than a bowl of water, so there is still some work ahead.”

Follow-up project requested

Because the original project has now been completed, the project group – again with the support of Plantum and Glastuinbouw Nederland – has submitted an application to the Top Sector for a follow-up project. Given the enthusiastic responses from the organizations and because of the enormous potential of a handy virus sensor for global horticulture and efficient water use, Koopal and Van der Wurff have high hopes for the green light.” “We will know at the end of this year whether we can continue,” the Sendot researcher concludes. “Then we could pick up the thread in the spring of ’24.”

Source : www.glastuinbouwwaterproof.nl