A key activity in the work of SASA is to develop and put into routine use, new and more sensitive diagnostic tests for pests and diseases. Such tests need to be rapid, simple to perform, lend themselves to automation and cheap. SASA has wide experience of developing and implementing such diagnostic tests into its work. These tests are generally based on serological approaches (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), immunofluorescence microscopy (IF), etc.) or molecular methods based around the detection of nucleic acids (polymerase chain reaction (PCR)).

SASA’s Monoclonal Antibody Unit, which was established in 1986, produces ELISA reagents for European and non-indigenous potato viruses selling to more than 17 countries around the World.

The Bacteriology Unit conducts tests mainly for quarantine and non-quarantine pathogens of potato using a range of tests based on PCR, IF, selective isolation and host testing.

Virology works mainly in support of the Scottish Seed Potato Classification Scheme and tests for a wide range of viruses using both ELISA and PCR.

Nematology tests around 20,000 soil samples each year for the presence of potato cyst nematode (PCN) using an automated soil washing system and a high-throughput real-time PCR tests which can differentiate between the two main species, Globodera rostochiensis and Globodera pallida.