Graduate students offer plant disease diagnostic service

June 4, 2012
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Alma Laney, Plant Pathology Graduate Students Association

Fred Miller, Communications, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture

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Angela Iglesias, left, and Keiddy Urrea-Romero

Plant Science — University of Arkansas plant pathology graduate students Angela Iglesias, left, and Keiddy Urrea-Romero, right, show how growing fungi in a Petri dish helps them understand what’s wrong with a plant at the plant disease diagnostic booth on the first and third Saturdays of every month this summer at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — University of Arkansas graduate students are offering a free diagnostic service at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market for gardeners and homeowners experiencing problems with their plants.

Members of the Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association staff a plant problem diagnostic booth from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month at the farmers market on the Fayetteville square.

“If people have a problem with their plants, they can bring a sample of the plant to us,” said Alma Laney, president of the Plant Pathology Graduate Student Association.

People are encouraged to bring a sample from the plant they are concerned about, Laney said. It is very difficult to make a diagnosis from a verbal description of a problem.

Students diagnose the plant diseases or other problems at the booth or take the samples back to a University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture lab for analysis, then offer recommendations for managing or limiting the problems.

“We also have a lot of free information about plant diseases that can help people take care of their plants,” Laney said.

The graduate students also answer questions from children and let them look through microscopes and other equipment at the booth. They can even take an experiment home with them.

“We give kids a Petri dish already prepared with a growing medium,” Laney said. “They can take a swab off a doorknob or kitchen counter, swipe the swab in the dish and watch what grows on the plate over time.”

The graduate students bring samples of plant disease problems that are found in the state, Laney said. They also have cultures of fungi and other plant pathogens growing in Petri dishes for viewing.

Plant pathology is an academic department of the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and a research and extension department of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.