ISU Clinic Acts as Emergency Room for Sick Plants

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AMES, Iowa -- A plant clinic at Iowa State University is looking to help out with the problems and diseases that plants suffer with.

The Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic that’s part of the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach seeks to keep plants healthy. The clinic, which acts as an emergency room of sorts for plants, is a place where people can send samples of their plants to, to find out what’s wrong with them, and how those problems can be solved.

The clinic’s director, Dr. Laura Jesse, explained to Channel 13 News, “someone looks outside or looks at their field of corn or soybeans or looks at their house plant and things aren't looking right, and we`re the people that they can get in touch with."

The clinic collects samples and then does a diagnosis. Dr. Jesse said of the process, “it`s kind of a CSI, you know it`s a mystery, and so you`re always kind of looking at ‘what you do you see visually? What are the symptoms?’”

Plant Pathology Diagnostician Lina Rodriguez Salamanca explained further, telling Channel 13 News, “sometimes the symptoms is just the expression of what the pathogen is doing on the plant, like either the fungi, bacteria, or virus, is causing the plant to suffer. You know, they`re turning yellow, they have some spots, that is because there is a pathogen associated with the symptoms.”

Putting samples under the microscope can help confirm a diagnosis, but as Salamanca explained to Channel 13 News, it’s very important to ask clients as many questions as possible such as, “where is the plant located? And as many clues as they can give us. When did it (the problem) start, how did it progress?’”

With enough information, the plant doctors can form a plan to help the clients with plant problems, as Salamanca elaborated on, giving an example of what she might tell a client after a diagnosis, saying "this plant is growing under these conditions. Let`s tweak it, if possible, so that you can either produce better if you`re a grower, or if you`re a gardener then you can get more tomatoes or more whatever vegetable you're growing.”

Anyone can submit a sample. You don’t have to have any connection to Iowa State University in order to do so. The clinic does charge a $20 fee for a plant problem diagnosis to recoup some of their testing costs.

Click here for the clinic's website.