University of Illinois

No. 8/May 15, 1998

Plant Clinic Opened May 1

May 1 began the twenty-third year of operation of the University of Illinois Plant Clinic. Although many of you are familiar with the clinic and its operation, others may be new to the system. Those who have used the clinic should take note of the section of this article entitled "Changes for 1998." To save time and effort, everyone should take care when sending samples and follow the procedures outlined in the "Suggestions for Specimen Collection and Submission."

The Plant Clinic is a seasonal service offered by University of Illinois Extension and is available May 1 through September 15. Although some people think of us as a disease clinic, we are much more. We handle plant and insect identification; diagnosis of disease, insect, weed, and chemical injury; and nematode assays. We also provide help with nutrient-related problems, as well as recommendations involving all diagnoses. The clearinghouse concept for plant problems has been in existence at the University of Illinois since the clinic opened in 1976. Although this multidisciplinary venture is managed through the Department of CropSciences, operation relies on input from both research and Extension components in many departments. Specialists are consulted on an as needed basis. They do not have offices at the clinic.

Ornamental plants generally comprise about 40 percent of the clinic samples. We also process a large number of field crops, fruits, vegetables, and turf samples. An average year generates about 2,600 samples. Demand has been high. In 1997, we handled more than 3,100 samples. The clinic will attempt to help with any plant problem, but the main limitation with specialty plants is locating a campus-based expert to provide help.

Is the clinic a service you should use? That depends on what you have tried to do to get an answer to your problem. Hopefully, you have tried to work through your local Extension office, agricultural consultant, chemical representative, seed dealer, or others involved with the problem. Our lab is most helpful in providing specific tests, laboratory backup, or an unbiased opinion based on plant samples and facts.

If you chose to use the Plant Clinic, keep in mind the adage "garbage in, garbage out." In that regard, try to provide a complete sample, as well as photos and facts concerning symptom development over time, cultural practices, chemicals used (including rates), fertility practices, weather in your area, soil type, and any other pertinent information. Specimen data forms to guide you through this information retrieval are available at Extension offices or by calling the clinic at (217)333-0519.

The Plant Clinic is located on the South Farms of the University of Illinois. The address is 1401 West St. Mary's Road, Urbana, IL 61802. There is a fee for samples to help cover costs. Regular samples (including cultures) are $10. Specialty tests for soybean cyst nematode and pinewood nematode, as well as some virus assays, are $15. All other nematodes cost $30 per sample.

Changes for 1998. The first change for 1998 is the requirement that fees accompany samples. The clinic does not have a billing office or staff specifically to handle bills and payments. Hiring employees to handle these matters would double the fees we charge. Obviously, this is not a desired course of action. Still, staff time required to follow up on unpaid bills has forced us to make changes. The logical way to handle fees with as little administrative time as possible is to require prepayment with the sample. Our fees are low enough that this should not cause undue hardship to most clients. To make this system easier for our clients, we will not process checks until diagnosis is completed. Please make sure that this policy is made clear to your staff members who might be working with clients.

Last year, we initiated a change of which many of you may be unaware. Insect samples no longer are free, and all insect samples should be sent directly to the clinic. They will be handled by entomology specialists and will be subject to the same $10 clinic fee as other regular diagnoses.

The final change for 1998 is minor. The city of Urbana has been split into multiple zip codes. The new zip code for the Plant Clinic is 61802. Please change this in your records and on any forms you may have.

Nancy Pataky (patakyn@mail.aces. uiuc. edu), Plant Pathology, (217)333-0519

University of Illinois Plant Clinic
Suggestions for Specimen Collection and Submission

  1. Collect fresh specimens. Send a generous amount of material, if available.

  2. Ship in a crush-proof container immediately after collecting. If holdover periods are encountered, keep specimen cool. Mail packages to arrive on weekdays.

  3. Include a "Plant Clinic Specimen Data Form" with each sample submitted.

  4. Include the fee as a check made payable to the University of Illinois.

Note: Diagnoses and recommended controls by the University of Illinois Plant Clinic are based solely on the material and information submitted. The less representative the sample and the less complete the information provided, the greater the chance for misdiagnosis.

Submitting Plant Specimens for Disease/Injury Diagnosis

Leaves: Collect early and late stages of infection. Press leaves between heavy paper or cardboard.

Fleshy plant parts: Samples with a rot disease should not be sent in an advanced stage of decay. Collect fresh specimens with early symptom development.

Canker: Select recently produced cankers. Submit the whole cankered portion where possible, preferably with healthy wood above and below the canker.

Wilt or general decline: Send the entire plant, with roots, if feasible; submit several plants, from healthy to severely infected. Dig, do not pull, plants from the soil so diseased roots will remain intact. If the whole plant cannot be sent, select samples from areas of active symptom development. Include the intact root system if root rot is suspected.

Turf: Submit several 4-inch plugs of grass cut as deeply as the roots will hold soil. Plugs should show gradation from healthy to severely diseased.

Submitting Nematode Specimens

Diseases caused by nematodes require special attention. See Report on Plant Disease, no. 1100, for detailed instructions on the handling and shipping of nematode-infested material.

Submitting Insect Specimens

Care should be taken to package insects so they arrive unbroken. Be sure to separate and label the insects if two or more are included in the same package, and provide appropriate information about each.

Adult specimens such as flies, grasshoppers, cockroaches, wasps, butterflies, and beetles may be submitted in a dry crush-proof container. Do not tape insects to paper or place them loose in envelopes.

Larvae or other soft-bodied specimens such as aphids, caterpillars, and grubs should be submitted in a small leak-proof bottle or vial of 70 percent alcohol. Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol is suitable and readily available.