Over the years the number of plants being traded worldwide increased and with that the chance of harmful organisms spreading was greatly enhanced. At the same time, the taxonomic knowledge available to identify harmful quarantine organisms via their visual characteristics decreased gradually.
The resulting economic damage is significant and shows how vital the development of accurate identification tools for plant pathogens and pests is.
Three years ago researchers from 15 mainly European nations founded QBOL a project financed by the 7th Framework Program of the European Union with the aim to make collections harboring plantpathogenic quarantine organisms publicly available. One main goal was to sequence genes from selected species on the EU and EPPO relevant lists . Over the 3 years the sequences, together with taxonomic features, were included in an internet-based database system called Q-Bank.
Some 18 000 sequences are available on the database and serve as identification and detection reference for phytosanitary organizations such as national plant protection organizations, general inspection bodies, and private laboratories. The project officially ended in September 2012 but the database will be continuously maintained and curated. However, as usual funding is not unlimited and similar to all other databases out there Q-Bank is looking for more suistainable solutions.