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Issue No. 11, Article 1/June 8, 2007

Plant Clinic Offers Diagnostic Help

The Plant Clinic at the University of Illinois has been in business since 1975. This seasonal laboratory offered unbiased diagnostic help for plant problems from May 1 through September 15 each year. The clinic specializes in identifying disease pathogens, nematodes, insects and insect injury, and weeds as well as helping with herbicide injury problems (although chemical residue testing is not available). Any plant problem submitted to the clinic will be assessed additionally for possible cultural and environmental problems, limited only by the amount and quality of information provided.

The lab can culture plant parts to test for fungal and bacterial pathogens. Some pathogens grow more quickly than others, so tests may take anywhere from 24 hours (for moisture chamber of fungal pathogens) to 10 days (for some root isolations). Serological tests are available for a few field crop diseases, such as potato virus Y, tobacco mosaic virus, and Phytophthora spp. In addition, our lab offers nematode assays on roots and soil. Complete ectoparasitic assays require sieving and sugar centrifugation as well as detailed population counts, so the cost is higher than straight soybean cyst nematode population assays. Soil assays for nematodes usually require a 3-day turnaround, depending on the number of samples submitted.

Insect identification is usually a fairly quick process in the lab. However, specialists who help with insect ID are not housed at the clinic, so the typical turnaround time of 24 hours may vary with their availability.

Weed identification also offers a short turnaround time, unless circumstances warrant consulting additional specialists. Herbicide injury diagnoses are based on samples, symptoms, and facts presented. The Plant Clinic is not equipped to assay soil or plants for chemical residues.

Feel free to call to discuss the tests you need, the timing for results, and the costs (217-333-0519). The clinic Web site provides information on how to submit a sample, sample fees, sample forms, clinic services, and links to other sites. Diagnostic responses and information on how to manage the problem will be returned to clients by U.S. mail and electronically. Most standard testing is $12.50 per sample. Specialty tests require more time and equipment, and thus a higher fee. Payment must accompany the sample.

The lab is located on the University of Illinois campus, west of the historic round barns. The mailing address is Plant Clinic, 1401 W. St. Mary's Rd., Urbana, IL 61802. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. A large drop box with specimen data forms is located next to the front door for those who cannot drop off samples during regular business hours.

University of Illinois Plant Clinic.

The University of Illinois Plant Clinic is a member of the North Central region of the National Plant Diagnostic Network; it is the only Illinois lab recognized as an official network lab. Plant Clinic personnel have been upgrading diagnostic techniques and now help monitor for Ramorum blight (aka sudden oak death), Asian soybean rust, legume viruses, Emerald ash borer, giant hogweed, and other plant pathogens and pests that might be exotic invasive concerns in Illinois. Clinic data is recorded in a national database to help monitor pathogen and pest threats.--Nancy Pataky, Director

Nancy Pataky

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