Can AI nip tree disease in the bud?

By Lou Corpuz-Bosshart, UBC Media Relations
University of British Columbia
October 26, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: Canada, Canada West

Erika Dort

Global trade, tourism and other forms of human movement are accelerating the spread of tree and plant pathogens between continents. …Climate change compounds this problem … trees have less resistance to disease—particularly infections from foreign regions to which they have no natural immunity. What if we could detect emerging diseases at ports and borders before they have a chance to spread? By using genomics and machine learning, UBC researchers have developed a method that can identify known tree pathogens, as well as assess the potential harm of a new, as-yet-unnamed fungus based solely on its genetic traits. This process can be completed in as little as a few hours, in contrast to other sample-analysis techniques that can take days. …With this predictive tool, we can help prevent potentially invasive plant pathogens from causing severe disease outbreaks,” says study author Erika Dort, a PhD candidate at UBC’s faculty of forestry.

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