Sick Plant! What to do?

by Sin Joe Ng, BS Sustainable Plant Systems BS graduate

There is a sick tree in Grandma’s backyard. Based on what I learned from class, I told Grandma there are several ways to diagnose the sick tree. She can send a sample to either private or university-based diagnostic laboratories or she can give a call to an Extension office, Master Gardener program or even use a diagnostic clinic app.

After receiving the sample, plant diagnosticians begin to examine the sample, identify the disease, determine the cause, and provide recommendation to manage the disease. The following are some of the key steps to diagnose the problem:

1) Identify what the plant is and know the appearance of the healthy plant,

2) Determine whether the problem is caused by abiotic (e.g., nutritional problems) or biotic (pathogens/pests),

3) Look into resources to gain more information about the possible disorder,

4) Ask the requester questions to obtain sufficient information about the problem,

5) Evaluate the environment and cultural practices that were applied to the plant,

6) Observe and examine the symptoms and signs,

7) Perform laboratory testing for further examination, like using microscope, ELISA, PCR, Koch’s postulates, etc.

8) Compile all results and provide the final diagnosis.

I find this topic interesting because I realize that disease diagnostics is tough since many different aspects have to take into consideration. I hope everyone would have some basic knowledge about how to diagnose the plant problem or at least know who to look for help, and more importantly have a healthier plant.

More Info

> C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Network

> 20 Questions on Plant Diagnosis

> National Plant Diagnostic Network

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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