Seed World

Kim Kenward is at the Forefront of a Molecular Testing Revolution

In the ever-evolving landscape of agricultural innovation, one name has been consistently associated with major advancements: 20/20 Seed Labs. This innovative organization was recently recognized as part of the 2023 Innovation Showcase initiated in collaboration with Seeds Canada.

20/20 Seed Labs emerged as an innovator for its molecular tests, establishing the organization as a true trailblazer in the field. But what exactly is molecular testing, and why has it become such a game-changer in seed testing? In this video interview with 20/20 Seed Labs R&D Manager Kim Kenward, we delve into the significance of molecular testing, its transformative impact on seed testing, and the potential for harmonizing seed testing rules worldwide.

Unveiling the Power of Molecular Testing

At its core, molecular testing is a sophisticated method of scrutinizing biological samples at the DNA or protein level. In the case of Kenward’s work, the primary focus is on DNA and RNA analysis. This technology provides a unique advantage by delving beyond surface-level characteristics, which typically define germination, vigour, and microbiology disease testing. Traditional methods often rely on visible traits, but molecular testing opens a gateway to unraveling the genetic blueprint, enabling a deeper understanding of the underlying processes. Additionally, the speed at which molecular testing can yield results often surpasses the time-consuming procedures of conventional disease testing.

Why Molecular Testing is a Game-Changer

The transformation brought about by molecular testing is multifaceted. One of its significant strengths lies in its ability to unlock hidden insights. By examining the DNA and RNA of seeds, scientists can peer into the very foundation of plant traits and health. This empowers researchers to identify potential issues, diseases, or inefficiencies long before they manifest as observable symptoms. Consequently, crops can be cultivated with a higher degree of precision and proactive measures can be taken to optimize yields.

Harmonizing Seed Testing Rules: A Global Perspective

The issue of harmonizing seed testing rules has garnered attention in recent times, with Kenward and 20/20 at the forefront of the dialogue. The lack of standardized regulations, particularly in the realm of molecular testing, has led to a scenario where practices and results vary significantly across labs and regions. Kenward advocates for the necessity of harmonization to ensure consistency, reliability, and comparability of results, even if derived from different laboratories. The call for harmonization echoes the broader need for a shared framework that can guide practices, quality, and integrity in molecular seed testing worldwide.

Unraveling the Enigma of Bacterial Leaf Streak (BLS)

One of the focal points of Kenward’s endeavours has been the study of bacterial leaf streak (BLS), a plant disease caused by bacteria. BLS is a complex challenge due to the diverse strains of bacteria that can affect various crops. Traditional disease testing methods often involve lengthy processes, whereas molecular testing offers a rapid and precise solution. By isolating and analyzing DNA from the infected seeds, experts at 20/20 can swiftly determine the presence of specific pathovars that pose a threat to particular crops. This streamlined approach saves time, resources, and aids in swift decision-making for farmers.

Future Horizons of Innovation

Looking ahead, Kenward and her team are primed to further redefine the agricultural landscape through innovative research. Recognizing the pivotal role of moisture in bacterial diseases, the team anticipates expanding their work on bacterial-related research to address evolving challenges. Virus testing is also poised to take centre stage, with the team laying the foundation for molecular-based virus testing. This is a significant shift, as viruses, being composed of DNA or RNA, necessitate molecular analysis for accurate detection – a realm where traditional microbiology tests fall short.