The Plant Clinic serves as a clearinghouse for plant problems sent to the University of Illinois from May through mid-September. Diagnoses are provided on trees, shrubs, turf, fruit, vegetables, field crops, or any other type of plant imaginable. Specialists are called to diagnose as needed; and, in an average year, about 20 different specialists may have input on plant samples. Services include plant and insect identification; diagnosis of disease, insect, weed, and chemical injury symptoms (chemical residue testing not available); nematode assays; and help with nutrient- related problems as well as management recommendations involving these diagnoses. The clinic cannot handle herbicide injury problems on ornamental plants nor can it assess nutrient levels in tissue or soil samples.
The University of Illinois Plant Clinic is open from May 1 through September 15 this year. The clinic budget is supported in part by user fees. These fees have not changed from 1999 and are listed here. A check made payable to the University of Illinois must accompany each sample.
General diagnosis (including cultures) $12.50
Specialty tests (SCN, PWN, ELISA)* $18.75
Other nematodes (usually corn) $40.00
*SCN indicates the test for soybean cyst nematode. PWN indicates pinewood nematode analysis. ELISA is a technique used to test for various viral pathogens.
A specimen data form or equivalent information should always accompany a plant sample. As the saying goes, garbage in–garbage out. The ability to provide a thorough diagnosis is directly related to the quality of the sample and the type of information provided. Each of the University of Illinois Extension offices should have a copy of the specimen data form. You can also find the form in the Master Gardener Manual, at the back of the disease section in the Field Crop Scouting Manual, or you can access the form on the clinic Web site at http://w3.aces.uiuc.edu/CropSci/Research/clinic/clinic.html.
When submitting plant samples, prepare them to survive a rough ride in a very hot mail truck. When sending whole plants, wrap them as you would if you intended them to be planted. Wrap soil and roots in plastic to keep them moist. Do not wrap foliage in plastic. If only leaves are sent, keep them dry and between cardboard. We can always rehydrate dry material, but it is not possible to remove mold from rotted tissue. Send as much of the plant as possible, including affected as well as healthy tissue, carefully labeled. A photograph of the plant and surrounding area is always helpful. Because the clinic staff has only the sample and information to work with, be as complete and accurate as possible in providing supportive information.
When in doubt as to how to package a sample or what to send, call the clinic at (217)333-0519. The mailing address is
1401 W. St. Mary’s Rd.
Urbana, IL 61802
Business hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. weekdays only. Arrangements can be made to drop off samples at other times.
Remember, opening day is May 1. Do not send samples before that time. No one is available to examine samples before May 1, and plants will decay while waiting.