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Collecting and Submitting a Turfgrass Sample to the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic

HYG-3087-10
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Date: 
11/15/2021
Revised 2021: Todd Hicks, Program Coordinator, Department of Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University
Original authors 2010: Joel Rimelspach and Sarah Ellis, Department of Plant Pathology, The Ohio State University

Knowing how to properly submit a turfgrass sample to the C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic can help in the easy and speedy diagnosis of the problem. Samples can be submitted that have come from golf courses, athletic fields, and residential lawns. If a problem is suspected, send a sample from the declining area as soon as the symptoms begin. Use the following steps to ensure the sample, packaging, forms, and shipping information are correct.

Step 1: Collecting the Sample

For "high-cut turf " such as residential lawns, athletic fields, parks, commercial sites, and sod farms, use a shovel, spade, or knife to collect the turf sample. Collect a sample that is at least 6 inches by 6 inches in diameter and 2–3 inches deep. Often it is advised to send multiple sections of healthy and infected turf.  These should be 6 inch by 3 inch sections of turf that include the roots. It is important that the specimen include both healthy (unaffected) and sick (infected) turf. This allows a comparison to be made between the healthy grass and the infected grass.

View of black leather shoe pushing a shovel into green grass. View of a square of green grass removed from a lawn, with a shovel blade next to it.

If you are taking a sample from a golf course, a cup cutter is an essential tool. Use the cup cutter to collect one or several samples of the infected and unaffected turf. If there are various stages of decline, include samples to illustrate the progression of symptoms. Make sure the samples are clearly labeled to note different sites and different stages of the problem. For both high-cut turf and golf-course samples, be sure the sample includes roots. Many people might not think about the environment beneath the ground, but it can have a huge influence on the health of a plant.

Round plugs of turf on the grass and in a box. Three circular plugs of grass taken from three separate areas of yellowing turf.

Step 2: Completing the Diagnostic Form

It is important that the sample form be filled out with as much detail as possible. Include information such as environmental factors, weather data (temperatures and rainfall), who is using the turf, symptoms, shape and size of the patches, amount or size of the affected area, when the problem began, whether this problem has occurred in the past, if the area is irrigated, if the problem is worse in the sun or shade, what chemicals have been applied (rate and formulation), were growth regulators used, etc.

The turf sample form can be found at https://ppdc.osu.edu/submit-sample/forms/turfgrass-form. Other landscape and plant forms can be found at https://ppdc.osu.edu/submit-sample/forms. It is recommended that you send pictures of the area—they can greatly assist the diagnostician. The more information you provide, the more complete the reply will be from the diagnostician. Place the form and photos in a plastic bag to prevent moisture damage. Place the plastic bag on top of the sample and seal the box tightly.

Step 3: PackagingTurf sample being wrapped in newspaper.

The way your sample is packaged can have a large impact on what the diagnosticians will be seeing when they open your package. Wrap your sample tightly in aluminum foil or newspaper. This will keep the soil (root zone material) from moving and getting on the turf. When soil covers the turf this makes diagnosis difficult and can cause contamination with other microbes that might be in the soil. Do not add water to the sample and do not put the sample in a plastic bag. If samples are too wet the turf will rot and will make diagnosis impossible. Choose a sturdy box and pack newspaper or bubble wrap around the sample to ensure it will not move around or break apart.

Step 4: ShippingA shipping box containing a newspaper-wrapped turf sample.

It is essential that the sample be shipped overnight so a fresh, representative sample arrives at the clinic. It is hard to diagnose a sample that is completely dead or deteriorated while in shipment. Do not send samples on a Friday— the box will sit in a warehouse over the weekend. Send samples early in the week to ensure the package arrives quickly. The address for turf sample diagnostics is:

Ohio Turfgrass Research Center

C/O Todd Hicks

2710 North Star Rd

Columbus, OH 43221

Following these steps can help the diagnostician to correctly diagnosis the problem(s) and provide an accurate and prompt response. There is a fee for diagnostic work at the C. Wayne Ellett Plant and Pest Clinic. Prices can be found at https://ppdc.osu.edu/fees. If you have questions regarding a sample you can contact the staff at 614-292-5006, fax 614-292-4455, or e-mail, ppdc@postoffice.ag.ohio-state.edu.

Also visit the clinic web site at https://ppdc.osu.edu/ and the Department of Plant Pathology's website at https://plantpath.osu.edu/ for more information on plant diseases.

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