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MARPLE: the real-time cereal killer detective

Copyright: Matt Heaton, JIC

Researchers at the John Innes Centre have created an advanced plant disease diagnosis system to help protect Ethiopia’s wheat crops from wheat yellow rust fungus.

Data breakout

2 Number of days MARPLE takes to diagnose which pathogen strain is infecting a crop
10-70% Proportion of wheat yield lost due to yellow rust
5 Number of research hubs in Ethiopia using the MARPLE kit
2019 Year Dr Diane Saunders won BBSRC Innovator of the Year Award for International Impact

The portable device, called MARPLE (Mobile and Real-time PLant disEase) diagnostics, detects which strain of the fungus pathogen is infecting a wheat crop in just two days, so users can make fast decisions to control the disease and protect harvests.

The MARPLE kit is designed for use in the field – it fits in a suitcase and does not need any additional laboratory equipment. Previously, infected samples were sent to specialist labs for testing, which took many months.

Ethiopia is sub-Saharan Africa’s largest wheat producer and is considered a gateway for new rust pathogen strains entering from Asia. MARPLE is being rolled out across five research hubs in major wheat-growing areas in Ethiopia.

Key impacts

  • The new plant disease diagnosis system identifies fungus strains in just two days, so users can make fast decisions to control the disease.
  • MARPLE is being rolled out across five research hubs in Ethiopia, helping to prevent new pathogen strains entering from Asia.
  • “It’s such a revolutionary technology. In Ethiopia we’ve now got one of the most advanced [crop] disease forecasting systems anywhere in the world.” – collaborator Dr Dave Hodson, The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.


Read the full impact evidence report:

MARPLE: the real-time cereal killer detective (PDF 1.62MB)

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