Plant Pests

Accurate identification of plant pathogens and insect pests allows us to recommend the most pest-specific and effective science-based management options possible. Our aims with correct pest identification are to maintain plant health while minimizing our environmental impact and protecting our natural resources. Thank you for using the plant pest lab to protect your plants!

Please scroll this page to learn more about how to submit plants for the following:

  • Plant Samples for disease diagnosis
  • Insects Samples for insect identification
  • Golf Course Plugs for turf analysis
  • Tall Fescue Forages for endophyte testing

Sampling Instructions:

Submission sheets: Please print and mail the Submission Sheet when sending samples to the lab. Please fill out the submission sheet with as much detail as possible.

Shipping: All plant material must be placed in plastic baggies except fruit which should be wrapped in newspaper or other paper. Send samples immediately after collecting. Keep samples cold if not able to mail immediately. Mail packages to arrive on weekdays (Monday through Friday) rather than weekends or holidays.

Payment: Sample payment may be made online, by check in the mail with the sample, by phone with a card, or in person. Please refer to the submission sheet for updated pricing scales. Samples cannot be processed without payment and necessary information.

Dead plants are useless for examination. Dry, dead, or decomposing plants cannot be processed.

Plant-specific sampling recommendations:

  • Send generous amounts of material. If plant is too large to send entire plant, dig up a handful of fine feeder roots to rule out root rotting pathogens.
  • Enclose all materials in plastic bags.
  • Keep roots separate from the rest of the plant.
  • For localized infection, such as cankers, leaf spots, rots, send samples representing early and moderate stages of disease. For cankers, include healthy portions from above and below diseased areas.
  • Entire plants are needed to evaluate root rotting pathogens.
  • Enclose all materials in plastic bags.
  • Wrap roots in aluminum foil before placing whole plants in a plastic bag.
  • Entire plants are needed to evaluate root rotting pathogens.
  • Keep fruits wrapped in newspaper or other paper. This will reduce fruit rot in the mail.
  • Wrap roots in aluminum foil before placing plants in a plastic bag.
  • Keep roots separate from the rest of the plant.

Insufficient samples are completely dry, unidentifiable, or dead. An adequate sample has both green tissue and diseased tissue still on the sample.

Sampling Instructions:

Submission sheets: Please print and mail the Submission Sheet when sending samples to the lab. Please fill out the submission sheet with as much detail as possible.

Shipping: Samples used to be preserved in alcohol, but that is a shipping hazard.  County offices have or can order propylene glycol vials from the Center for safe shipping.  Please contact your county office for these safe shipping vials.

Payment: Sample payment may be made online, by check in the mail with the sample, by phone with a card, or in person. Please refer to the submission sheet for updated pricing scales. Samples cannot be processed without payment and necessary information.

Live insects are not accepted. Ensure insects are placed in propylene glycol before shipping. Sticky cards for monitoring insects are also accepted.

Specific sampling recommendations:

  • Insects must be dead.
  • Insects must be shipped in clear vials of propylene glycol or brought to the lab in a clear container or clear plastic bag.
  • Samples containing human skin, hair, or bodily fluids are not accepted.
  • Please wrap all sticky traps submitted individually.
  • Please wrap sticky traps in a transparent material such as cling wrap or in individual clear plastic baggies.
  • Each trap submitted will be charged as one sample.

Sampling Instructions:

Submission sheets: Please print and mail the Submission Sheet when sending samples to the lab. Please fill out the submission sheet with as much detail as possible.

Shipping: Collect samples prior to fungicide applications. When the disease is active, collect a cup-cutter sized plug (4″ diameter) that is 3 – 4 inches deep from the edge of the patch or affected area. Wrap the plug in newspaper or paper towels and secure with tape. Ship overnight or bring immediately to the Center.

Payment: Sample payment may be made online, by check in the mail with the sample, by phone with a card, or in person. Please refer to the submission sheet for updated pricing scales. Samples cannot be processed without payment and necessary information.

golf plug
Image of sufficient golf course plug sample.

Sampling Instructions:

Submission sheets: Please print and mail the Submission Sheet when sending samples to the lab. Please fill out the submission sheet with as much detail as possible.

Shipping: Mid-April to May is the best time of the year to collect tall fescue for endophyte analysis. Send tall fescue only. If you are unsure of the identity of the grass, ask your local Extension agent for help. A mature fescue plant is composed of a number of shoots called tillers. Collect one tiller from at least 30 fescue plants scattered throughout the pasture. Cut the tiller at ground level; do not remove leaves from the tiller (shoot). Do not send soil or roots. Place tillers in a plastic bag and ship to the Soil, Plant and Pest Center.​

Payment: Sample payment may be made online, by check in the mail with the sample, by phone with a card, or in person. Please refer to the submission sheet for updated pricing scales. Samples cannot be processed without payment and necessary information.

Tillers from tall fescue in a clump
Image of tillers from tall fescue.

Frequently asked questions:

  • Question: My plant is dying. What should I bring in for testing?
    • A: A whole plant is always ideal for testing. If a large tree or shrub, a handful of fine feeder roots is sufficient. A branch with both symptomatic and healthy tissue is required for accurate analysis. Completely dead plants are useless for analysis.
  • Question: Can you test for herbicides?
    • Answer: No. The plant pest diagnostic lab cannot test for herbicide residue. We can only rule out plant pathogens or insects pests as causes of disease. Please visit the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) website to file a pesticide complaint.
  • Question: Can you tell me if there is a disease in my soil?
    • Answer: No. We currently require root tissue to confirm the presence of disease causing soil borne pathogens.