When Extension agents come across a sickly plant and they can’t easily determine what is wrong with it, one of the first places they turn to is the Plant Disease Clinic, part of the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science at Virginia Tech.
Mary Ann Hansen, instructor, and Elizabeth Bush, research associate, manage the clinic. In 2008, the clinic evaluated more than 1,500 samples from 99 Virginia Extension offices, helping growers and homeowners identify and control diseases attacking their plants. “We are a service laboratory for the Extension agents,” Hansen says. “We provide our diagnosis and recommendations to the agents, who then let their clients know what actions to take.”
Aside from the obvious benefit of saving a valuable crop or plant, accurate identification of plant diseases also plays a role in protecting the environment. Hansen notes that about 40 percent of the samples they receive don’t have a disease problem. What people think is a disease may actually be the result of insects, environmental problems like drought, or even damage from chemical treatments. The correct diagnosis can help eliminate unnecessary or improper use of pesticides that end up impacting the environment and can result in unnecessary expense. Read the full story in Solutions.