Q1. How many sensors should be installed in a field?
We recommend that you discuss this with our sales team, to ensure you purchase the recommended number of sensors for your field. As a general rule, we recommend 5 sensors per hectare for field vegetables. The number of sensors can be averaged out across larger areas or many different fields, however, please be aware that the results may not give a representative sample of the entire field and will only tell you the dominant microorganisms in that patch of the field. If more than one sensor is placed in a field, then the combination of these results can give an indicator to the relative abundance of the microorganism across the field.
However, if you wish to identify the pathogens causing hot spots or diseased patches in your field, then at least 1 sensor per patch should be installed.
For different growing systems (glasshouses, polytunnels) we recommend that you contact our sales team for tailored advice.
Q2. Where should the sensors be installed in the field?
This depends on the set-up of your field/growing systems, and the required use of the sensor. If you are testing the health of a field before planting, then the sensors should be uniformly spread across the field. If you are testing for disease during the growing season or at harvest time, then it is recommended that you test known or suspected hot spots. If this is not known, then the sensors should be spread uniformly across the field.
For growers using glasshouses/polytunnels, please discuss this with our sales team, as this will depend on your set-up, and your disease issues.
Q3. How should the water sensors be installed?
We advise that only the needle of the sensor should be immersed in water, and that you avoid immersing the top chamber of the sensor in water, as this will flood the detection chamber and impact on the results. There are three options for testing water using FungiAlert’s sensors:
- If possible, the best option would be to test a flowing water source, either coming directly from your water tank, or from the irrigation source, or run-off water.
- Another good alternative is to take a representative sample of the water source you wish toanalyseand to pour it in a bucket or a similar recipient. The sensors can then be placed into or in contact with the water (again, avoiding immersing the top chamber of the sensor in water).
- Furthermore, you can alternatively attach the sensor to some type of buoyant material, and float the sensor directly in the water tank/water source.
Q4. How deep should the sensors be installed into the sampling point?
Only the needle of the sensor should be inserted into the soil/growing substrate at the sampling point, and the detection chamber should stay above ground. The sensors should be placed as close to root depth as is possible, and therefore the depth of insertion is at the discretion of the user.
Q5. For how long should the sensors be in the soil/water/coir?
Instructions and recommendations for the length of time the sensors are placed in the sampling point are provided in the box accompanying the sensors. If you are still unsure about timings (due to changing weather conditions etc.), then our recommendation is always to lean to the side of caution, and to leave the sensors in the sampling point for longer, where possible (except in extreme hot and dry weather conditions). The detection chamber of the sensor will also turn from purple to yellow to indicate the presence of microorganisms, and this also serves as an indicator for when to send the sensors back.
Q6. The sensors haven’t changed colour but have been in the sampling point for the recommended period of time. What should I do?
As stated in Q5, our recommendation is always to lean to the side of caution, and if there is any concern, then to leave the sensors in the sampling point for longer than required (except in extreme hot and dry weather conditions). Therefore, if the recommended length of time in the sampling point has been satisfied, but the sensors have not yet turned yellow, please leave the sensors in the sampling point for an additional 2-5 days.
Q7. When is the best time to place the sensors?
Depending on the use-case of the sensors, the sensors can be placed:
- Before planting, for a soil-health screen to determine potential disease threats
- During the growing season, to monitor disease risks
- Before harvesting, to help decided the best harvest time, or to decide what fields to overwinter.
In warm weather, if possible, the sensors should be placed in the sampling point after the crops have been irrigated or after rain fall. This will maximise the efficiency of the sensors.
Furthermore, sensors should not be placed into a sampling area that has recently been sprayed with fungicides, see Q8 for more guidance.
Q8. Will fungicide/bio-control sprays impact on the results?
Fungicide applications immediately before installing the sensors into the sampling point will have an impact on the results. Therefore, it is recommended that sensors are not placed in sampling points that have had chemical applications until 48 hours after the treatment. Once the sensors have been installed, there is no impact of additional fungicide sprays on the results.
Q9. What information do you need me to provide on the datasheet provided, and why is it important?
You must provide locational information to be able to distinguish what sensor was placed where. If this information is not provided, we are not able to include it in our report, and you will not be able to determine what sensor was placed where. In addition, the more detailed information you can provide to us (i.e. what crop is currently growing, or what crops are intended to be grown), then the more tailored the report will be. If you have previously sampled the same field/areas, then this information would also be useful, as we can provide you with a comparison of microorganisms present over time.
Q10. Where and how should the sensors be stored until they are used?
The sensors should be stored in the box provided, avoiding exposure to direct sun light and should be kept in a cool, dry place until they are installed in the sampling point.
Q11. How long can the sensors be stored a) before using them, b) after being used?
a) Each box of sensors will have a use by date clearly labelled on the box. Please get in touch with us if the sensors haven’t been installed by this date.
b) Ideally, the sensors should be sent back to the FungiAlert laboratory immediately after having been collected from the sampling point. However, if you are using the sensors in batches, and not all of the sensors are due to be collected at the same time point, then you can store the used sensors for a short period of time in a dry and cool place before sending them back. NB. Please do not store used sensors for more than a week before sending them back to our laboratory, as this can compromise the results.
Q12. There is condensation on the sensor lid, is this a problem?
No, this is normal, and is a result of changes in environmental conditions. There is no negative impact on the results, and if fact, condensation can be preferential, as fungi/oomycetes prefer moist conditions.
Q13. Can I use the sensors to test plant material?
No, the sensors can only be used in soil, water or growing substrate. If you wish to test plant material, please get in touch with us and we can offer you this service. You can however use the sensors to test the state of the roots once the plant has been sown in the growing media.
Q14. Can the sensors be used in production sites abroad?
Yes, however, we need to be informed of where the sensors are being transported, all samples that are returned to our laboratory that come from outside of England & Wales need to have a licence included in the box, as these samples are required by the government (APHA) to be analysed separately in our laboratory.
In addition, the free return label provided to you for UK samples is only valid from addresses within the UK. Therefore, please do get in touch with us before purchasing sensors for countries outside of the UK, as the postage requirements are different.
If you have any questions which have not been covered by the FAQs, then please contact FungiAlert on [email protected], or call 01582 320971.