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Rhonda J. Ferree

Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture

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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog

University of Illinois Plant Clinic diagnoses plant problems

The University of Illinois Plant Clinic is now open year-round to help solve plant problems. Over the last several years, the clinic has nearly tripled their number of plant investigations. In 2012, most of their plant samples were received from Piatt, Champaign, Effingham, Cook, Livingston, McLean, Clinton, Kankakee, and Vermilion Counties in Illinois. Stephanie Porter, University of Illinois plant diagnostic outreach specialist, provides the following review of the clinics work in 2012.

When looking back to the 2011 growing season at the Plant Clinic, it was the year of spruce problems (cultural, environmental, disease, insects and spider mites). This prompted additional education outreach in 2012, such as spruce diagnostic workshops and a Spruce Problem Fact Sheet.

The 2012 growing season consisted of a late frost, DROUGHT or DECLINE, and oak problems. Many in Illinois requested testing for diseases such as oak wilt, bacterial leaf scorch, and Burr oak blight (BOB). In fact, we had our first confirmation of burr oak blight (BOB) at the U of I Plant Clinic in 2012. I will quickly add that another unique disease find, in 2012, was Spruce Needle Rust (Chrysomyxa spp.).

Now, when looking at our U of I Plant Clinic fruit and veggie samples, I would say that 2012 growing season consisted of abiotic issues. Some examples that come to mind are sunscald of pepper as well as sunscald, fruit cracks, blossom end rot, catface, or zippering of tomato.

The most common disease of 2012 was Bacterial Blight or Blast of ornamental pear (Pseudomonas syringe). We received questions about this disease throughout the season!

Some of the more challenging plant samples at the U of I Plant Clinic, for me personally, in 2012 was a palm tree problem. I was very fortunate to have received help from University of Florida– IFAS, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center experts such as Monica L. Elliott, Ph.D. and Timothy Broschat, Ph.D. I will never forget how Dr. Elliott told me, an Illinois farm girl, not to worry, "a palm tree is just like a corn plant on steroids." I also struggled with an African violet sample early in the season. This plant sample is an example of a problem in which I was not able to pinpoint an exact diagnosis without further information--which drives me crazy. My most involved and complex plant sample of 2012 goes to an "out-of-state" sample, which consisted of declining oaks. All I will say is that most of our U of I Plant Clinic diagnosis reports consist of one page and this particular plant sample diagnosis report consisted of seven pages.

In 2012, we were constantly on the "look out" for a new disease called Boxwood Blight (Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum). Luckily, we have not confirmed this devastating boxwood disease in Illinois. But, we did have a higher sample load of boxwoods this year, and diagnosed many other environmental, disease, and insect issues such as: Macrophoma leaf spot, Verticillium wilt, Volutella blight, Fusarium blight, boxwood leafminer, cold damage, and winter injury.

Downy Mildew of impatiens, another devastating disease, unfortunately did make a return to Illinois in 2012 and may be here to stay.

My favorite as well as problematic sample of 2012 arrived on my birthday! This plant sample was that of sweet basil. This tricky sample had cultural, environmental, viral, and insect issues! A sample like this is a dream for a Plant Clinic diagnostician, but a nightmare for a grower!

To conclude, I would like to thank all the U of I Plant Clinic team, which includes staff, students, volunteers, and U of I Specialists for helping to diagnose or identify the many plant samples received at the U of I Plant Clinic.

I hope that you will allow the U of I Plant Clinic to help you with your plant problems in 2013.

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