Unique Technique Can Help Researchers Get Jump on Plant Diseases

Scientists at North Carolina State University have developed a new technique to quickly collect DNA from plant tissue. This new technique uses microneedle patches and is the first step toward quickly assessing plant disease. These scientists see this development as the first step toward creating on-site diagnosis tools.


“When farmers detect a possible plant disease in the field, such as potato late blight, they want to know what it is right away. Rapid detection can be important for addressing plant diseases that spread quickly,” says Qingshan Wei, an Assistant Professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at North Carolina State University. “One of the obstacles to rapid detection is the amount of time it takes to extract DNA from a plant sample, and our technique provides a fast, simple solution to that problem,” Wei says.

Wei is a co-corresponding author of a paper on this research titled “Extraction of Plant DNA by Microneedle Patch for Rapid Detection of Plant Diseases” and was published in the journal ACS Nano.

The technique the research team has developed uses a microneedle patch and an aqueous buffer solution. The patch is about the size of a postage stamp. Needles that are only 0.8 millimeters long are on one side of the patch.

A grower can apply the patch to the plant, hold the patch in place for a few seconds, then peel it off. The material collected is washed off with the buffer solution and placed on a sterile container for diagnosis.

“DNA extraction has been a significant hurdle to the development of on-site testing tools,” Wei says. “We are now moving forward with the goal of creating an integrated, low-cost, field-portable device that can perform every step of the process from taking the sample to identifying the pathogen and reporting the results of an assay.”