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Maybe the Plant Clinic Can Help!

April 27, 2001
There are plant clinics located at most of the larger land-grant universities in the country. This generally amounts to one per state. Over time the clinics have evolved to handle most plant problems or to refer clients to specialty labs, such as those handling virus identification, chemical residue testing, and tissue analyses. The University of Illinois Plant Clinic services include plant and insect identification; diagnosis of disease, insect, weed, and chemical injury symptoms (chemical residue testing not available); nematode assays; and help with nutrient-related problems, as well as management recommendations involving these diagnoses. The clinic cannot handle herbicide injury problems on ornamental plants, nor can it assess nutrient levels in tissue or soil samples. If you have specific needs, call first and we can determine whether we can be of help or whether you would be wise to use another lab. The purpose of the Plant Clinic is to provide an unbiased analysis of your plant problem at an affordable price.

The University of Illinois plant clinic operates from May 1 through September 15. The clinic budget is supported in part by user fees, and these fees have not changed since 1999. A check made payable to the University of Illinois must accompany each sample. Contrary to popular belief, there is no discount or free service for university employees or alumni. Without the fees we would have to close our doors.

General diagnosis (including cultures) $12.50

Specialty tests (SCN, PWN, ELISA)* $18.75

Other nematodes (usually corn) $40.00

*SCN indicates the test for soybean cyst nematode. PWN indicates pine- wood nematode analysis. ELISA is a technique used to obtain quick and accurate assays for a few specific pathogens. If you are in doubt as to the charge, call the Plant Clinic at (217)333-0519 and discuss your needs with one of our staff. Samples forwarded to other labs will require client approval.

A specimen data form or equivalent information should always accompany a plant sample. In a few cases the exact cause of the problem may be obvious, but usually it is necessary to perform microscopic work, culturing, and consulting with specialists to complete a diagnosis. The ability to provide a thorough diagnosis is directly related to the quality of the sample and the type of information provided. Take the time to include as much information as possible to avoid additional sampling. Each of the University of Illinois Extension offices should have a copy of the clinic specimen data form. You can also find the form in the Master Gardener Manual at the back of the disease section and in the Field Crop Scouting Manual, or you can access the form on the clinic website at
Pictures (either tangible photos or electronic versions) are extremely helpful as additional information.

The most limiting factor in accurate diagnosis is probably the quality of the sample itself. Try to imagine what will happen to a plant when it is sealed in moist toweling, wrapped in plastic, and incubated in a mail truck for a few days in 100° temperatures. The result can be a moldy mess. When submitting plant samples, prepare them to survive a rough ride in a very hot mail truck. When sending whole plants, wrap them as you would if you intended them to be planted on arrival. Wrap soil and roots in plastic to keep them moist and to keep foliage clean. Do not wrap foliage in plastic. If only leaves are sent, keep these dry and between cardboard. We can always rehydrate dry material, but it is not possible to remove mold from rotted tissue. Send as much of the plant as possible, including affected as well as healthy tissue, carefully labeled. When in doubt as to how to package a sample or what to send, call the clinic or consult the "How to Submit a Sample" section of the webpage. The mailing address is:

Plant Clinic

1401 W. St. Mary's Rd.

Urbana, IL 61802

Business hours are 8:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., weekdays only. Arrangements can be made to drop off samples at other times. Opening day is May 1.

If you have a diagnostic need that we do not offer, call and discuss this with me or send a message to Pataky

Author: Nancy Pataky

The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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