posted on May 13, 2009 11:45
Michigan State University
Don’t miss the diagnostic services offered to you at the land grant universities in the North Central region. Typically, the labs can help with identifying insect, plant disease, nematode and abiotic problems.
Below are links to the labs in our region. Since pests do not honor state borders, these labs are linked to share information through the National Pest Diagnostic Network.
Purdue University’s Tom Creswell, P&PDL Director, and Gail Ruhl, senior plant disease diagnostician, recently posted these Top Ten Diagnostic Tips in Purdue’s April 3, 2009 Pest & Crop newsletter. Be sure to check with your state’s lab for their specific handling procedures.
Top 10 Diagnostic Tips
- Time is money: Don’t wait until the problem is widespread to send a sample. Many disease and insect problems are manageable if caught early.
- Dead plants tell no tales: Plants that are totally dead, dry or rotten are useless for diagnosis. Collect and submit declining but not completely dead plants.
- What’s bugging you? Collect several examples of insects for ID, just in case some get damaged in shipping or if both males and females are needed. Many can be shipped in vials with 70% alcohol. More details at: http://www.ppdl.purdue.edu/PPDL/physical.html.
- More is better: The main concern may be overlooked if you send only one plant, one insect or a single branch. Send plenty of material or a whole plant if practical. Make sure samples are representative of what you are seeing. Digital images can help too!
- Get to the root of the problem: Many plant problems are related to the roots and soil. Dig plants rather than pull them up to keep roots intact. Include plenty of the small roots and at least a cup of soil. (Complete soil nutrient analysis is available from commercial labs. For details see: http//www.ppdl.purdue.edu/PPDL/pubs/MBP-3.pdf)
- A place for everything: If soil gets on the leaves during shipment it can mask symptoms or even create a “disease” that wasn’t there at shipment. Keep soil around roots so they don’t dry out. Bag the roots and soil and tie at the main stem. Wrap foliage in newspaper lightly then pull the bag over the rest of the plant and tie the top loosely to keep foliage from drying out. Make sure foliage isn’t wet before packaging.
- Include details: The more you tell the diagnostic lab about the situation the better. Please give complete information including name of plant, location, percent affected, symptoms of concern, distribution, soil type and drainage, and fertilizers or pesticides used recently. For Plant ID or Weed ID please give full details requested on submission form.
- Fresher is better: Mail or deliver samples as soon as you can. Store samples in a cooler on hot days until you can deliver or ship them. Avoid mailing samples on Fridays since most plants will start to rot after being in transit over a weekend. A next day delivery service is needed for urgent samples or those that may rot quickly in shipment.
- Fragile, handle with care: Padded mailing envelopes may be used for woody plants which are not fragile but crush proof boxes with crumpled newspaper for padding are preferred in most cases (essential for herbaceous plants and turf samples). Insect vials must be padded to prevent breakage in shipment.
- ‘Heads-up” for priority samples: When mailing high priority samples call to let us know the sample has been shipped so we will be on the ‘look-out’! If you are personally dropping off a sample and wish to visit with a diagnostician or specialist it is best to call ahead and schedule an appointment time.