Plant Diagnostics

I have spent a fair amount of time this week dealing with various plant health issues. When I notice something wrong with a plant, I attempt to quickly diagnosis the problem myself. I will often search the internet for information concerning most common pests and disease and cultural/nutritional requirements for the specific plant. Many times, this is sufficient to determine the cause and the best management strategy. But, there are times when the problem is a bit tougher to crack. This is when I call upon Purdue’s or Michigan State’s Plant Diagnostics Lab, a part of a national network of plant diagnostic labs.

When I have a difficult case or need a very specific diagnosis, I call upon these laboratories-who charge pennies on the dollar for invaluable information. Purdue’s lab is excellent for identifying pest and disease issues. Michigan State’s lab is excellent for soil and plant tissue nutritional analysis. The first step in dealing with a plant health issue is to identify the true cause, otherwise much time and effort could be wasted accomplishing nothing. The key to utilizing this great service is to provide copious amount of information and a well prepared sample. Both labs provide guidelines of how to prepare the either digital or live samples. For live samples, it is critical to provide as much of the plant as possible or good samples from all parts: soil, roots, stem, leaf and flower/fruit; not just the portion where symptoms appear. Keep the sample refrigerated until it is shipped to preserve enough live pathogen cells to culture out and identify a culprit.

Reporting results happens pretty quickly, and I am looking forward to hearing back about my latest round of plant woes.

Josh Steffen
Horticulture Manager

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