Taking an environmentally sensitive approach to pest management


Missouri Environment & Garden


Adam Leonberger

The Plant Diagnostic Clinic is Now Open

Adam Leonberger

Published: March 1, 2011

As the weather starts to warm up, we start thinking of getting our plants into the ground. Inevitably, some of your plants will get sick. If you have spots on your tomatoes, your petunias are wilting, or any other plant related issue, send your sick plant to the Plant Diagnostic Clinic. The PDC draws upon a network of experts We aim to diagnose your plant related problems and provide accurate, timely answers and management recommendations. Submission forms can be found on-line at our website, plantclinic.missouri.edu.

It is easy to submit a plant sample. Send entire plants with roots intact (dug, not pulled) if possible. When you collect plants or plant parts, make sure a range of the symptoms is represented in your sample. For larger specimens, sample from the transition zone between healthy and symptomatic tissue. For suspected Tree wilts, like Dutch elm disease, oak wilt, or pine wilt nematode, submit live branches 1 to 2-inches in diameter, cut from branches that are beginning to show symptoms. For oak wilt detection, submit branches exhibiting streaking in the sapwood and keep samples cool during shipment by packing with ice packs.

For plant identification, place the sample flat between layers of dry paper. Try to prevent excessive folding of the leaves and place flowers so that you are looking into the center of the flower. Pack the wrapped bundle in plastic, preferably with a piece of cardboard to keep the sample flat. To make packaging easier, fold tall plants once or twice or cut into shorter lengths. For trees and shrubs, collect a terminal or end portion of a leafy branch with at least five leaves or buds.

For insect/ arachnid identification, place leak-proof bottle or box in sturdy shipping container with plenty of packaging material to prevent shipping damage. Preserve soft-bodied insects such as caterpillars, aphids, or mites in a leak-proof bottle with 70% alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or hand sanitizer gel. Do not submit insects in water, formaldehyde or without alcohol as they will readily ferment and decompose. Hard-bodied insects such as butterflies, beetles, or bees should be killed by freezing and cushion specimens in layers of tissue.

It is important to remember that a good diagnosis is dependent upon a good sample, so don't let it go bad in the mail. Wrap samples with a few layers of a dry absorbent material, like paper towels or newspaper. Excess moisture will cause the sample to spoil during shipping. Don't forget to use a sturdy box to send your plant in either. Mail the sample early in the week to ensure that the sample arrives by Friday. If you're in town, feel free to stop by the clinic in person. You can mail samples or visit at 23 Mumford Hall, Columbia, MO 65211.

There is a small fee for general diagnosis, insect/ arachnid identification, and plant/ weed identification of $15. There is an additional $10 fee for additional fee for virus testing, bacterial or fungal isolation that is necessary for a diagnosis. Commercial turf and putting green fees are $25 and $50, respectively. It's a small fee for a lot of information.

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REVISED: June 13, 2012