High-quality tests for diseases are indispensable as they must give buyers the guarantee that a lot is pathogen-free. Naktuinbouw plays a key role in this respect, whether the test is part of a statutory inspection or tests on the client's request.
Naktuinbouw tests seeds, cuttings and other samples of plants and trees in its laboratories. These tests detect the presence of harmful viruses, bacteria, fungi and other organisms. “The laboratory facilities at Naktuinbouw are characterised by a huge variety in the nature of research and testing. This diversity has a traditional background," explains Jacq de Koning, Head of Naktuinbouw Laboratories. Together with the high quality level of the research, this has resulted in an excellent reputation that is acknowledged worldwide. As well as fulfilling Naktuinbouw's statutory tasks, the Laboratories department also serves several hundred clients. They range in size in from small to large and locations from South Africa to Japan. “Our clients come from all time zones. Because the speed at which test results are obtained is becoming increasingly vital, this means we operate more or less year round."
Certainty for clients
In order to serve the market as proactively as possible, Naktuinbouw engages in an intensive dialogue with the market. “In the past, the scope of our activities was more market driven, but we have now reversed this process. We increasingly try to incorporate more input from the market into protocol and knowledge development so we can surprise clients by asking if a certain new test is interesting for them." The laboratory started a drive to renew 10 to 15% of the tests two years ago, in addition to continually developing very new tests. After all, the landscape of pathogens is constantly changing. New pathogens continue to emerge all the time. We have also made a firm commitment to the application of molecular techniques. This allows us to assure clients even faster that a lot is virus-free." De Koning tries to match the laboratories’ capacity to market demand as well as possible. One of the ways is by agreeing long-term contracts. “We regularly meet to discuss things, especially with large clients . For example, to have an idea of when they expect to submit samples for testing. This really helps us organise our internal planning. Although we always have to factor in a possible sudden outbreak of infection caused by pests or diseases. If a quarantine organism suddenly appears, the NVWA expects us to test those samples with priority."
In the background Naktuinbouw Laboratories is also working hard on a number of new developments. “For instance, further improving mijnNaktuinbouw, greater differentiation in sample size and publishing FAQ," says De Koning.
One of Naktuinbouw Laboratories' clients is Enza Zaden. The vegetable breeding company from Enkhuizen performs many quality tests in its own facility. These tests are accredited by Naktuinbouw, via the NAL system. Enza Zaden also contracts out testing to Naktuinbouw. “Some of these are specific tests for diseases that we cannot perform ourselves. Others are tests that we can do here, but lack sufficient capacity for" says Joop van Doorn, manager of Research and Applications Seed Technology (photo above). Enza Zaden places a strong focus on continuously optimising the traits of vegetables. According to van Doorn, this optimisation is broad-based, ranging from creating resistance to a particular disease to improving the taste or boosting production. “But it also covers aspects such as uniform emergence of seedlings."
In van Doorn's view, research is crucial to developing and improving products. It is so important that the company invests more than 30% of its turnover in research, knowledge development and cooperation with other parties. “Standing still really is going backwards as far as research is concerned. That also applies to developing new quality tests."
Van Doorn is very happy with the excellent cooperation with Naktuinbouw. “They do a great job, the contact is good and we speak the same language. Plus, the people at Naktuinbouw Laboratories protectively think along with us." He describes Naktuinbouw as an innovative organisation. “The research world is changing rapidly. Alongside serological testing, everything used to revolve around visual inspection and symptom analysis. But today the shift is increasingly towards DNA and RNA analysis-based tests, such as PCR. Naktuinbouw is good at taking the lead in these trends, in consultation with its clients."
It is no coincidence that van Doorn and Naktuinbouw maintain frequent contact. “On the one hand they run disease tests for us. While on the other hand, we cooperate in international partnerships that aim to develop protocols for detecting diseases in seed."
Tissue culture production
Gootjes-AllPlant bv from Heerhugowaard is another company that has long recognised the importance of virus testing. The company produces, grows and sells propagating material for garden plants, in particular, new perennials from tissue culture and rooted plugs. “In around 2008 there were issues with a virus in Hosta," says coordinator initiation & stock production Marianne Boltjes. “Since then, we have the mother plants tested for viruses as standard practice. We only proceed to the in vitro stage once a plant has tested negatively." Boltjes regularly consults the Elite Ornamental Crops regulations on the Naktuinbouw website. “This information shows us exactly which viruses a particular family of plants is susceptible to. If a certain plant family is not listed, we contact Naktuinbouw Laboratories. They then analyse the literature describing viruses in this family and use this information to give us advice.”
Boltjes is very satisfied with the working relationship. “They have an incredible amount of know-how. And its ideal that we can have all our virus testing done by a single party. And, lastly, the fact that the laboratory is independent adds value for us."