The first step in solving a problem is identifying the problem. Diagnosing plant problems in the landscape/garden can be difficult and costly when guessing. In some situations, sending a sample to a diagnostic laboratory may be helpful in solving the problem.
Three frequently used diagnostic services available through the UF/IFAS County Extension Service are the UF Soil Testing Laboratory, Plant Disease Clinic and Nematode Assay Laboratory.
SOIL TEST: There are two basic soil tests available – the standard soil fertility test which costs $7 and the soil pH and lime requirement test which costs $3.
The results from the $7 test will tell you the pH of the soil and, based on the pH, the amount of lime to apply, if needed. This test will also tell you the levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. Based on the levels of these nutrients, the test results will give fertilizer recommendations for the plants you’re growing.
The results from the $3 test will tell you only the pH of the soil and, based on the pH, the amount of lime to apply, if needed.
The soil test does not tell you if nematodes, diseases, insects or chemicals have damaged your plants. It only provides information to help you fertilize and lime your plants correctly for best growth.
Soil sample kits and instructions are available at your County Extension Office.
DISEASE SAMPLE: Provided a good sample is taken, the results will tell you if a disease is associated with the sample. If a disease is diagnosed, you will receive recommendations on control measures.
The cost is $40 per disease sample. Plant disease diagnostic forms and instructions are available at your County Extension Office or online at http://plantpath.ifas.ufl.edu/clinic/index.shtml.
NEMATODE SAMPLE: Nematodes are microscopic worms which sometimes feed on the roots of various plants including certain vegetables, lawn grasses and ornamentals. As their numbers increase in the soil, nematodes can result in stunted growth and decline in plants. Many times infected plants wilt more readily during dry weather and recover from wilting more slowly than do healthy plants.
The results from a nematode soil assay will tell you the number and kind of nematodes found along with appropriate control measures.
Cost is $20 per nematode sample. Nematode assay kits and instructions are available at your County Extension Office or online at http://entnemdept.ifas.ufl.edu/assaylab.
Success from results of these and other diagnostic tests is highly dependent on submission of fresh, representative samples. Follow all directions when collecting, packaging and shipping samples.
You can find your local UF/IFAS Extension Office and a wealth of helpful information at http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu