Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MSU Extension offers disease diagnosis, plant, weed, and insect identification

MSU Extension offers disease diagnosis, plant, weed, and insect identificationKari Lewis

As summer approaches, the number of plant and insect samples that we receive for identification and disease diagnosis increases tremendously.  I wanted to take a few minutes today to review the proper procedure for submitting a sample to your local Extension office, so that we can best provide a timely and accurate identification or diagnosis, regardless if you are a farmer, rancher, or gardener. 

MSU Extension can assist with disease diagnosis and
plant identification, but samples need to properly collected
and packaged for best results.  Photo by Kari Lewis.
Through in office resources and the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman, we can assist with identifying potential diseases or abiotic issues and identifying unknown plants.  When bringing in a plant sample, there are a few key things that are needed.  First, provide sufficient plant material, including roots of the plant.  The sample should be packaged with sufficient plant material that would allow the plant to be re-potted and continue to grow.  There should be soil kept around the root ball, and then a plastic bag wrapped around the root ball and rubber banded, to prevent soil from damaging leaves during shipping.  Ideally, please collect samples with mild, moderate, and severe symptoms, as well as a healthy plant to provide a comparison.  Samples should be kept as fresh as possible, which can be done through refrigeration until you are able to bring the sample to our office.  Do not add water to the sample or wrap the sample in wet paper towels; doing so can create additional issues that weren’t even the original disease.

Photographs illustrating the issue, throughout the field, lawn, or garden and up close, are especially helpful along with background information regarding the concern.  Background information includes the plant and variety, the location where the sample is from, the irrigation practice used, the history of the plant, and information on any pesticides, fertilizers, or amendments used.  Also, information on recent weather conditions, the pattern of symptoms in the field and on the plant, and if there’s been previous problems in that location help us determine what the issue is.

If submitting a sample to the Extension office, samples should arrive by 3 p.m. to allow time to enter the sample in the database and be mailed out if it does need to go to Bozeman.  Samples should not be submitted on Fridays, as they may rot over the weekend. 

Insect samples should be packaged in a crush proof container with a tight-fitting lid.  We’ll need to know where the insect was found, if it was damaging a plant or tree and if so, which parts of that plant or tree and what the damage was. 

If you have any questions on submitting a sample to your local Extension Office and/or the Schutter Diagnostic Lab in Bozeman, please contact your local office.  

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