The Plant Clinic at the University of Illinois is open to the public for diagnosis of plant diseases, insect and chemical injury, cultural problems, and nematode injury, according to plant pathologist Nancy Pataky from University of Illinois Extension.

"This is an integrated plant lab where more than 2,500 plant samples are handled each year," Pataky said. "Diagnosis can be provided for trees, shrubs, turf, fruits, vegetables, field crops, and almost any other type of plant you can imagine."

Weed and insect identification also is available. Specialists are consulted as needed in the areas of botany, entomology, forestry, horticulture, mycology, plant pathology, soils, soil fertility, and weed science.

The clinic is not equipped to handle pesticide residue tests or nutrient analysis. The laboratory can conduct microscopic work and culturing for pathogens. A letter of diagnosis with suggested control measures is prepared for each sample.

She notes that the quality of the diagnosis is often directly related to how much background information is provided. Specimen data forms are available on the clinic website or by calling the clinic directly. A data form or equivalent background information should accompany each sample.

Pataky emphasizes that clients should include details concerning field or plant symptoms, past chemical applications and rates, patterns of symptom development, cultural practices, suspected problems, and any other information that may help with the diagnosis.

"Proper packaging of plant specimens can help insure accurate diagnosis," she said. "Samples should be prepared to survive a rough ride in a very hot mail truck."

Soil and roots should be wrapped in plastic to retain moisture and to keep soil off the foliage. The foliage itself should not be wrapped in plastic. If only the leaves are being sent, they can be placed between cardboard to keep them dry.

"We can always rehydrate dry material at the clinic, but it is not possible to remove mold from rotted tissue," Pataky said. "Send as much as possible of the affected part of the plant, as well as healthy tissue, and carefully label the sample. A photograph of the plant and surrounding area is always helpful."

She points out that there is a fee for all plant samples submitted to the clinic. The fee is used to pay for laboratory supplies, equipment, some support staff, and office materials.

The fee is $12.50 for a regular sample, $18.75 for pinewood nematode, soybean cyst nematode, or specialized virus testing, and $40 for corn nematode testing. A check payable to the University of Illinois should accompany the sample.

The clinic is located at the north end of the Crop Sciences Research and Education Center at 1401 W. St. Mary's Road, Urbana, IL 61802. The clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Samples may be mailed or personally delivered to that address from May 1 to September 15.

Additional information on the clinic is available on the web at www.cropsci.uiuc.edu/research/clinic/clinic.html or by calling directly at (217)333-0519.