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Launch of new tool that detects Hop Latent Viroid in the early stages of plant development

"Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd) remains among the most pressing challenges facing the cannabis industry. Early detection and eradication is imperative. Many cultivation facilities in California and beyond harbor infected plant material whether or not they are explicitly aware of it," says Angel Fernandez, CEO and Co-Founder of MyFloraDNA. He explains that when a pathogen makes its way into a facility undetected, it can rapidly spread from plant to plant, particularly in instances where cultivation practices do not reflect the risk of potential pathogen presence. "Much of the industry has adapted to this challenge through rigorous diagnostic testing, updated protocols for sterilization, and demanding certified pathogen-free plant material, but, just as is the case with the common flu or COVID-19, the viroid is likely to persist in the population in perpetuity. Unless dramatic scientific breakthroughs are made that manage to eradicate it entirely, the best we can hope for is to keep it at a manageable level."

As early detection is imperative to limit its impact, MyFloraDNA has recently launched a new testing kit. "Our latest technology is known as MFDetect, which is a rapid, highly sensitive, and high-throughput tool for detecting Hop Latent Viroid (HLVd) in the early stages of plant development in cannabis," Angel says. "The new testing platform combines high-throughput handling procedures, RT-LAMP, and quantitative fluorescence measurements utilizing a qPCR machine to facilitate rapid, high volume, sensitive and specific detection of numerous pathogenic viruses, viroids, and fungi."

A need for a new and cost-effective solution
Angel says that the company quickly recognized the need for cost-effective population-scale monitoring of pathogens after the full extent of the impact of such diseases was made clear in both anecdotal reports and formal research publications. "Our technology differs from others in that it utilizes a newer, arguably more advanced form of the traditional reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) called Loop Mediated Isothermal Amplification (RT-LAMP). Through proper design, optimization and refinement, this type of reaction has demonstrated the ability to deliver results equivalent to other available methods in terms of dependability, while far outperforming these other methods in terms of volume capacity - meaning we can get you accurate results sooner," he explains. "We couple this method with extremely sensitive measurements delivered by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) machine in order to generate numerical data, from which positive samples and negative samples can be clearly distinguished using statistical analyses."

Over the course of years of research and hundreds of thousands of assays performed, MyFloraDNA has managed to optimize the operational efficiency of the assaying process. "This factor, combined with bulk purchasing of chemical inputs, has put us in the unique position of being able to democratize access to this technology to cultivators of all types. By facilitating easier adoption of pathogen diagnostic technology by offering the lowest prices, we hope to help curb the spread of potentially devastating diseases such as Hop Latent Viroid," Angel says. "Within a range of $6-$9, growers can analyze their plants and stop spreading this devastating disease. Unlike any other in the industry, we were able to reduce the cost to one single digit thanks to our investment in research and development while maintaining the accuracy and sensibility of our tests."

Based on feedback so far, growers really appreciate scientifically validating the health of their crops, Angel says. "Being able to access this technology helps to facilitate the reduction and elimination of plant pathogens from growing facilities, saving a great deal of money on the whole when space, electricity, time, and the associated opportunity costs are analyzed. We're thrilled to say that many growers who work with us have dramatically reduced the prevalence of pathogens in their facilities. Large cultivators before working with us had levels higher than 50% of infestation, and twelve months later are around 3-5% of infestation. We are talking about clients with millions of plants, so the economical savings for them was translated to millions of dollars."

The process
Angel explains that using the testing kit is straightforward. Here are the 4 steps:

1. Request the collection kit.
2. Collect samples: Gather a combination of roots and leaves from your plants. Use MyFloraCLOUD to store and submit your samples' information for accurate diagnostic matching. For guidance on proper sample collection, watch this tutorial: How to Collect Your Samples - Video Tutorial
3. Return samples: Place your samples in the provided collection box and use the included return label to send them back to MyFloraDNA.
4. Receive results: Check your results on MyFloraCLOUD within 48 hours after receiving your samples.

"Hop Latent Viroid can cut yields by half and cut THC production by a whopping 50%. Given these figures, it's easy to see how catching those plants early on in the growth cycle and swapping them for certified pathogen-free replacements pays for the cost of pathogen testing many times over," Angel concludes.

Click here to read a study on MFDetect's technology.

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