Abstract Background In China, Newly emerging duck reovirus (NDRV) variants have been causing major disease problems in cherry valley ducks. NDRV has the potential to cause high morbidity and 5–50% mortality rates. Severe hemorrhagic-necrosis in the liver and spleen were commonly seen in NDRV affected ducks. The availability of upgraded methods for rapid diagnosis of newly emerging DRV variants is crucial for successful DRV infection control and prevention. Results In this study, we present a TaqMan-based real-time PCR assay (RT-qPCR) for the detection of NDRV infection. Using the conserved regions within the NDRV genome, we designed the specific primers and probe. The lower limit of detection for NDRV infection was 10 copies/μL (Ct values: 38.3) after the optimization of the RT-qPCR conditions. By cross-checking with other duck viral pathogens, no cross-reactivity was observed confirming the assay was highly specific for the detection of NDRV. Reproducibility of the RT-qPCR was confirmed by intra- and inter-assay variability was less than 2.91%(Intra-assay variability of Ct values: 0.07–1.48%; Interassay variability of Ct values: 0.49–2.91%). This RT-qPCR and conventional PCR (cPCR) detected one hundred and twenty samples of NDRV infection from different regions. The result shows that the positive rates were 94.17 and 84.17% respectively. The detection rate of RT-qPCR rapid detection assay was 10% higher than that of the cPCR method. Conclusion This research developed a highly sensitive, specific, reproducible and versatile of RT-qPCR for quantitatively detecting NDRV. It can be used to study the pathogenesis and epidemiology investigation of NDRV.