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Work Package 1

Biotechnology for Pest and Disease Detection and Characterisation

Work Package 1

Agricultural biotechnology provides innovative means for protecting crops and animals from devastating diseases. In this component of the project, a range of molecular techniques were used for the monitoring of pathogenic organisms and pests to improve agricultural productivity.  Knowledge transfer from the laboratory to the field was implemented through training workshops.

Crops, animals and food produce harbor many microbes, some of which can cause serious damage or can be harmful to humans. Sensitive methods are required for their identification and differentiation in order to improve management strategies. DNA amplification and sequencing were successfully applied on selected organisms.

Our Team

Dr H. Neetoo, Prof Y. Jaufeerally Fakim, Prof S. Facknath, Dr V. Bhoyroo

Enhanced capacity for molecular characterisation of pest and disease in Mauritius and Rodrigues

The Work Package 1 component of the DESIRA project consisted of several parts for the identification and characterisation of pest and diseases. The rationale was to apply techniques based on DNA sequences to detect pathogens and insect pests more accurately. While traditional methods rely on culture, biochemistry, morphology and visual assessment, a molecular approach provides an insight into the genomes of the target organisms. More importantly they enable the differentiation of closely related strains, which is more challenging with other methods. Several experiments were run and  it was possible to detect and differentiate infectious organisms in food and plant materials. Molecular identification of several insect pests has been performed through DNA barcoding by amplification and sequencing of the cytochrome oxidase gene (CO1) segment.

WP1 was implemented in collaboration with officers of the Ministry of Agro-Industry and Food Security. The University provided the laboratory facilities to perform the tests and hosted the training sessions.


Workshop at Bois Pignolet Community Center

Workshop at Bois Pignolet Community Center (63 participants) and at Morcellement St Andre Khoyratty Community Center (50 Participants) in collaboration with the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund and F.A.L.C.O.N

Oct 2020

Workshop at Mapou

Workshop at Mapou in collaboration with the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund and F.A.L.C.O.N

Feb 2021

Webinar: Food Loss and Food Waste International Day

Webinar on the occasion of the international day of awareness of food loss and food waste

September 2021

Online Focus Group

Online Focus group with Stakeholders on 'Enhancing Food Safety, Food waste reduction and food innovation'

May 2022

Webinar on Food Waste

Webinar on ' Food Waste Reduction and Recovery' for Students in Rodrigues

May 2022

Food Waste Reduction Workshop

Workshop on "Food Waste Reduction; it is our responsibility' with Mauritius Revenue Authority Staff

June 2022

Food Waste Campaign

Campaign on " Together, We can Fight Food Waste at St Nicholas Grammar School"

June 2022

Women Entrepreneur Workshop

Workshop on the 'Valorisation of Food Waste' with women entrepreneur

June 2022

International Day of Awareness on Food Loss

Celebrating International Day of Awareness on Food Loss and Food Waste Reduction

September 2022

Train The Trainers

Train the Trainers Workshop with 18 Home economies instructors and officers on " food waste reduction at household level"

January 2023

Workshop 1

Bioinformatics analysis of genomes.

Workshop 2

Nanopore sequencing.

Output of WP1

Aim: To acquire new equipment, consumables and reagents that will enable researchers at the FoA to apply DNA-based approaches for identification and monitoring of pests and pathogens in crops, animals and food.
Scope: Proper disease management strategies rely on accurate detection and characterization of pests and pathogens. Newly developed techniques that are now available for understanding epidemiology and evolution of pathogens need to be introduced in Mauritius. These are molecular methods using DNA-based approaches for accurate identification. The FoA will upgrade its facilities to use these techniques for research and teaching.
1.1.1 Set up a dedicated equipped facility at FoA for rapid pest and disease screening based on molecular approach.

Aim: To identify accurately species and strains of pathogens through molecular techniques 

Scope:  Molecular  methods,  which  use  DNA-based  approaches,  are  very  accurate  for identification of species and strains. Mauritius is lagging behind in the application of such methods for pest and disease monitoring and control. To achieve this, the proper molecular methods have first to be validated for the local context.


1.2.1 Validate test methods for diagnostic and differentiation of specific pests and diseases using PCR amplification, real-time PCR and DNA sequencing;

1.2.2 Screen strategic crops and livestock animals for pathogens and pests of major concern.

Aim: To document an on-line repository of the molecular sequences of local pest and diseases for use by stakeholders

Scope: An online web portal for pest and diseases in Mauritius is an important tool for stakeholders to properly identify the pests, their geographical distribution, seasonality prevalence and measure impacts of agricultural production. The tool will then be used to advise on the control mechanism such as the use of appropriate vaccines for the diseases depending on the causal organism following strain identification. This tool will provide the means for disease monitoring and produce information that can be stored in databases for future use. The web portal will generate data that will be critical in the management of agricultural production.


1.3.1 To develop a database of known and emerging pests and diseases for Mauritius and Rodrigues;

1.3.2 To design a data analytics tool;

1.3.3 To map high-risk regions for pest and disease.

Aim: To build capacity in biotechnology through improved human capital for molecular diagnostics of pests and diseases
Scope: DNA sequence technologies are widely utilised for the control and management of pest and diseases but have yet to be implemented in Mauritius. University graduates and relevant stakeholders will benefit from the training courses to acquire the required skills for accurate species and strain identification.
1.4.1 To develop training materials for molecular techniques to diagnose pest and diseases;
1.4.2 To conduct training courses for relevant stakeholders in molecular pest and disease diagnostics.

WP1 Latest News

Workshop 2023

The workshop was organized by the Faculty of Agriculture

Latest Research on Pest in Mauritius

The Faculty of Agriculture has developed a latest molecular marker for the identification of Plutella xylostella affecting cruciferous crops.

Surveillance of Foodborne pathogens

Small potato farmer being sensitized on early screening of PVY Following a survey with potato planters, it was found that