Along with his colleague Geneviève Marchand, researcher Jonathan Griffiths is trying to help the Canadian greenhouse industry get through the crisis. According to them, screening is the key to limiting the damage.

Greenhouse growers also have access to a rapid test similar to that used to detect COVID-19 in humans. The method is simple. Geneviève Marchand explains that all you have to do is crush a leaf in a sachet, then insert the test strip. When two red lines appear, the sample is positive.

Geneviève Marchand shows us the result.

When two red lines appear, the sample is positive.Photo: Radio-Canada / Pier Gagne

This kind of test was developed more in the medical context, but slowly it is making its way to the world of agriculture. »

A quote from Geneviève Marchand, Plant Pathologist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

In Quebec, the Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation (MAPAQ) offers producers rugosis detection services.

Antoine Dionne with a pipette.

Antoine Dionne of MAPAQ collaborates with other researchers who analyze the entire genome of the virus. Photo: Radio-Canada / Pier Gagne

We use the tests as screening techniques for COVID, therefore PCR techniques, molecular biology. These are more sensitive techniques too. In general, in 24 to 48 hours, we have the result. »

A quote from Antoine Dionne, plant pathologist, MAPAQ

The MAPAQ laboratory is also working with other researchers to analyze the entire genome of the virus. It is feared that the virus will mutate and that variants will appear.

Rémi with his instruments.

All of the labware for Harvest Genomics’ new screening test fits on a small table. Photo: Radio-Canada / Pier Gagne

A former nurse, vegetable producer Françoise Legault is on the lookout for methods of detecting Tomato COVID. She also recently tested on the farm a new screening test, created by a private laboratory, Harvest Genomics. A test developed at the request of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture. Ontario accounts for 70% of Canadian greenhouse tomato production, ahead of British Columbia and Quebec.

Rémi in his laboratory.

Rémi Maglione has developed a new screening test, Photo: Radio-Canada / Pier Gagne

We are a bit like the scientific police who come to a crime scene. We collect samples here and there, we analyze, we decode the DNA, we look at the DNA code on a database and we look for the little criminal who is the tomato rugosis virus. »

A quote from Rémi Maglione, Vice President, Harvest Genomics

In the greenhouse, Françoise Legault rubbed dry swabs on surfaces often handled by employees: sprinkler system, touch screen, crank, door handle.

It surprised me that it’s not the plant material that we analyze, she says. Often, when a disease is suspected, it is the whole plant, the fruits or the leaves that will be sent to the phyto laboratory to have a diagnosis of the problem. But it is true that it is found in the environment.

The laboratory equipment fits on a small table. With a sequencer the size of a telephone connected to a laptop, Rémi Maglione was able to recover the genomic material. Luckily for the producer, the test results turned out to be negative.

In the medium term, we would like to develop a black box where the producer would only have to put his sample and have a result. And we really want to be able to bring sequencing technologies directly to the farm. »

A quote from Rémi Maglione, Vice President, Harvest Genomics

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