Using UNL's Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic

Using UNL's Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic

May 23, 2008

Accurate Diagnoses Begin with Quality Samples

Tips for Sample Collection
  1. When possible, send whole plants that represent all stages of the symptoms being observed and include "normal" or healthy plants from the area near the symptomatic plants.
  2. Provide as much information about the sample as possible including: age and variety of plant, moisture availability, soil type, disease history of site, chemical history of site, description of symptoms, plant part(s) affected, time of symptom development, distribution of symptoms, occurrence of severe weather, and any other information that may be helpful in diagnosing the problem.
  3. Include a picture of the distribution of symptoms, as this can be very helpful.
  4. Plants submitted for horticultural and weed identification should include roots, leaves, flowers and/or fruit.

Tips for Sending a Plant Sample

  1. Keep samples cool before sending.
  2. Place your sample in a plastic bag and include a dry paper towel if the sample is damp. If the roots are in soil, enclose them in a separate plastic bag with the soil intact. Place the sample in a sturdy box with packing material to take up excess space. A padded envelope can be used for relatively small and flat samples.
  3. Mail your sample during the first part of the week (Monday-Wednesday), as the sample can deteriorate if the package sits in the post office over the weekend.
  4. Include all the sample information (see above) and contact information such as phone numbers and mailing address. The new Specimen Identification form used for submitting samples is available on-line at, or contact your local Extension office.

Tips for Sending an Insect Sample

  1. Send your sample in a rigid mailing container.
  2. Soft-bodied insects (insect larvae and small insects) should be placed into a tight sealing bottle with a liquid preservative such as 70 % alcohol or vinegar. Rubbing alcohol works well.
  3. Hard-bodied insects (beetles, ants and flies) should be wrapped in tissue and placed in a crush proof container.
  4. For living insects, include some of the host plant or damaged material along with some loose paper toweling, and place into a plastic bag or a ventilated container.

By following these recommendations for collecting and submitting samples to the diagnostic clinic, samples will arrive in excellent condition. Send samples to:

University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Plant & Pest Diagnostic Clinic
448 Plant Science Hall
P.O. Box 830722
Lincoln, NE 68583-0722

The UNL Extension Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic is here to help diagnose your plant, insect or weed questions. The clinic offers services related to the identification of plant diseases, insects, horticultural plants, weeds and herbicide injury.

Service charges are the same as previously and include:

Standard sample – $10: The standard sample fee is applied to all samples that can be identified with only visual and/or microscopic examination.

Additional charges:

Culturing for pathogen identification – $10. (The additional fee helps to cover the cost of media, other reagents and the time involved in identifying the causal agent. )
SCN Assay – $10
Plant Parasitic Nematode Assay – $15
Goss's Culture – $10
Stewart's ELISA – $15
Misc. ELISA test (most virus identification) – $15
Insect Culture – $10

Following the guidelines (see box) for collecting and sending samples can help ensure that samples arrive in excellent condition for an accurate diagnosis. If you have a plant or pest problem, first consult with your extension educator who often can help with a diagnosis.

Available this year on-line at is a weekly update of the diseases being observed on field crops submitted to the clinic. The goal is to provide notice of what's being seen across the state and what diseases may be moving into your production acres. It is important to remember that the diseases reported in the update are not all the disease currently being seen in the field.

All of us at the diagnostic clinic look forward to serving your diagnostic needs this summer. We hope that your plant and insect problems are minimal and that you have a bountiful growing season.

Amy Ziems
Extension Educator, Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic Coordinator
Lowell Sandell
Extension Educator, Weed Science
James Kalisch
Extension Associate, Entomology
Anne Streich
Extension Educator, Horticulture

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