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Estimates are that approximately 12% of the U.S. peach crop is lost to pests and another 12% is lost to diseases. The need for early detection of pests and diseases in agricultural systems is critical to enabling timely interventions and the prevention of lost crops. Researchers at Georgia Tech Research Institute's Food Processing Technology Division are focusing on the detection of Armillaria Root Rot using a new miniature gas chromatograph to identify a volatile organic compound (VOC) that is unique to Armillaria tabescens.
This fungus has no known cure and its early detection is critical to prevent the loss of an entire orchard – which will occur if the infected trees are not removed. While hyper or multi-spectral imaging is excellent at identifying trees under stress, they cannot discriminate between trees under stress due to lack of water or a tree under attack from Armillaria. This project will bring together experts in horticulture and chemical analysis to validate that identified VOC signatures can be measured in the field. The goal of the proposed work is to field test a novel gas chromatograph (GC) sensor based on new micro-machinery technology developed at Georgia Tech to identify the chemical markers of Armillaria Root Rot. This would represent a tremendous step forward in the early detection of all diseases and pests in the field. This work is critical to develop the fundamental technology to address a major economic issue within the State of Georgia.