National Science Director
National Plant Pathogen Laboratory Accreditation Program
The National Plant Pathogen Laboratory Accreditation Program (NPPLAP) was developed for labs performing PPQ diagnostic tests so that diagnostic determinations are recognized by USDA regulatory programs. Currently, the participating labs of NPPLAP test for the causal agent of Ramorum blight (a.k.a. Sudden Oak Death) and the citrus greening pathogen ( Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus) using; validated protocols, trained diagnosticians, quality assurance and proficiency testing components for the diagnosis of these pathogens. The NPPLAP Coordinator has been filled to forward the program as new diagnostics and participating labs are added to the program.
Training and Proficiency Testing of Diagnosticians for National Diagnostic Capacity
Scientists at the CPHST Beltsville Lab train National Plant Diagnostic Network as well as State and US Regulatory Agency diagnosticians in molecular biological techniques using USDA validated diagnostic protocols and procedures. Training sessions occur for Phytophthora ramorum, Ralstonia solanacearum Race 3 biovar 2, plum pox virus, and the pathogens that cause citrus greening, citrus canker, and potato wart. The Beltsville Lab also develops and produces proficiency test (PT) panels for use in NPPLAP and ICLN requirements. Proficiency test panels for Phytophthora ramorum and citrus greening pathogens are already deployed, and similar panels for other high-consequence regulatory pathogens are currently being developed.
Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks
The Integrated Consortium of Laboratory Networks (ICLN) is a U.S. government spanning organization developed to coordinate the delivery of timely, high quality, and interpretable results through inter-network communication and information sharing, resource optimization, resource coordination, and strategic planning. The ICLN cuts across Federal agencies involved in law enforcement, food safety, and human health. APHIS PPQ is a full member of the ICLN as a representative for the National Plant Diagnostic Network. The ICLN have ongoing sub-committees to coordinate lab capacity, quality assurance and proficiency testing, sampling logistics, information technology, training, and analysis of biological outbreak scenarios. The charge and charter, as well as sample procedure documents have been ratified. Response architecture documents, interoperability guidelines, and discussion of resource leveraging issues are currently under development.
Enhanced Molecular Diagnostic Systems
New diagnostic tools have been deployed to counter the increasingly complex challenge to achieve refined detection and identification of pests to fulfill the mission of APHIS. Use of molecular methods allows rapid, sensitive, and specific identifications that previously could not be realized. One goal is to adapt and develop molecular diagnostic tools for rapid identification of intercepted, immature fruit fly species of economic importance. An example is the use of sequence-specific, mitochondrial DNA variation in Anastrepha ludens as a means for identifying the origins of intercepted Mexican fruit fly. A similar project is aimed at economically important (but very difficult to identify) thrips species. Rapid identification of a variety of pests can be assisted by new detection technologies such as CANARY (Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risk and Yield). One important outcome of this development for PPQ will be high throughput, rapid diagnostic capability for screening material passing through Plant Inspection Stations.
Citrus Commodity Lucid Identification Tool
The first part of a new interactive internet resource to assist APHIS and cooperators with identification of pests and diseases for the cultivated citrus commodity, Pests and Diseases of Cultivated Citrus in the United States, will soon be available. Part I, Diseases and Disorders of Cultivated Citrus, is closely associated with PPQ's Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP). This media-rich tool, complete with a symptomatic-based key, fact sheets, and image gallery, will provide identification as well as training support for individuals responsible for detecting citrus diseases during commodity-based surveys. Part II: Pests of Citrus will be available in 2011, and Part III: Citrus Cultivars and Relatives is planned for 2012. The entire resource is a collaborative effort among CHRP, PPQ's Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, University of Florida, and Broward College.
Dried Botanicals Interactive Tool. Identification of Imported Dried Botanicals, an interactive digital diagnostic tool, will soon be available to APHIS and cooperators. This tool represents the Identification Technology Program's first foray into emphasizing the use of images to support identification of these often highly modified plant products. It includes 244 different dried botanical products, an extensive image gallery, and fact sheets for each species represented in the tool to help support identification. The tool was developed through collaboration among PPQ's Center for Plant Health Science and Technology, PPQ Eastern Region, and Delaware State University.