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About Distance Diagnostics

adult western corn rootworm

What if there were 50 Extension professionals at your local Extension Office that could help diagnose your plant or pest problems? With a range of expertise that included: field crops, forages, turf, fruit, commercial vegetables, and home pest problems. University of Illinois Extension's Distance Diagnostics system makes that possible by bringing every Extension office in the state almost instant access to the diagnostic skills of these experts.

Using digital imaging equipment local office staff can take high quality images of plant and pest problems. The images, along with background information about the problem, are submitted to the Distance Diagnostics system. The appropriate experts are instantly notified that a new sample has been submitted.

No matter where they are, if they can get their email, they can make a diagnosis. Rapid diagnosis is often critical in preventing losses and providing peace of mind. Last year, 22 percent of the samples were diagnosed within two hours of submission, and 77 percent within 48 hours.


The University of Illinois Extension Distance Diagnostics System, DD, was started in 1999. Since then nearly 8000 plant and pest samples have been processed. This system connects 95 local University of Illinois Extension field offices with over 50 University campus and field-based experts. The system utilizes a unique combination of hand held digital cameras, microscopes and adapters that will allow the cameras to take pictures through the microscope. The equipment was upgraded in 2006-2007 through a state bio-terrorism grant.

Facts about Illinois Extension Distance Diagnostics in 2008

Distance Diagnostics Economic Impact

25 Randomly selected Samples (responses categorized)

Qualitative impact of 9 no treatment required, diagnoses: Mental and physical well-being of client; Environmental protection from improper or un-necessary pesticide use.

Estimated potential financial impact of the 8 samples requiring treatment
1 Termite Identification potential loss $15,000
1 save fruit tree and fruit $150
4 properly treated weed infestations $60
1 carpet beetle infestation, Household goods saved $250
1 Large houseplant saved $30
Total $15,490
Potential impact extrapolated to all 2008 samples $500,000