The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) wants growers to know its diagnostic labs are continuing to operate during the COVID-19 crisis. Plant and soil health are critical to agriculture, an industry designated as essential during the pandemic. Therefore plant, soil and water testing will continue to be available.
The following UF/IFAS labs are receiving and processing shipped samples:
- The Plant Diagnostic Clinic at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead
- The Everglades Soil Testing Laboratory at the Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade
- Labs at the main UF campus: Extension Soil Testing Laboratory, Insect Identification Laboratory, Nematode Assay Laboratory and Plant Diagnostic Center
“The work done in these labs is critical to the success of Florida’s agricultural industries, from plant nurseries to citrus growers, to home landscapers to cattle ranchers,” said Saqib Mukhtar, associate dean of agriculture for UF/IFAS Extension. “That’s because results from these labs help people make informed decisions that impact their businesses.”
“Typically, the soil testing lab processes about 16,000 to 18,000 samples a year from all counties in the state, covering nearly 100 commodities,” said Rao Mylavarapu, director of the UF/IFAS Analytical Services Laboratories.
If growers want to know if their plants are sick, they can send samples to the Plant Diagnostic Center in Gainesville or the clinics in Quincy or Homestead.
According to Carrie Harmon, an Extension specialist in the department of plant pathology, staff at the Plant Diagnostic Center are working in shifts, with only one person in the building at a time. Staff members are triaging samples, culturing fungi and bacteria, running tests and responding to emails and phone calls.
“Additionally, we are doing as much digital diagnosis as we can, to save folks from having to send in a sample if possible — (it) saves them from shipping costs and reduces the load on the lab,” said Harmon. “We are here for Florida agriculture. They don’t stop, so we won’t either, as long as possible.”
Visit https://diagnostics.ifas.ufl.edu/ to learn how to submit samples or for more information.