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Turf Disease Diagnostics and Turf Nematode Assay

Turf Diagnostic Form

Guidelines for Collecting & Packaging Turf Specimens:

 Please submit samples based on the following guidelines for turf diseases, turf insects, turf nematode assay and turfgrass identification.

Fill out the Turf Diagnostic Form as completely as possible. Include complete name and mailing address. Photos of the problem are extremely helpful. Remember that accurate diagnosis requires both a representative sample and sufficient information about the cultural practices and environmental conditions associated with the disease problem.

Turf Disease Specimens:

1. Collecting a sample for turf disease diagnosis: A 4 to 6 inch diameter sample from the "leading edge" of a problem is most useful. Include roots and soil to a depth of at least 2 inches and foliage showing a range of symptoms. Do not send smaller samples or samples collected with a soil probe. Sample from areas where the problem is active or increasing. Do not send dead grass. Dead plants have no diagnostic value.  Samples should include both healthy and affected grass.

2. Packaging the sample: Keep the sample moist and cool, but do not add water or moist paper towels or seal tightly in plastic. Avoid soil and moisture on the grass. Wet or soiled grass will deteriorate and make diagnosis impossible. Wrap the sample in several layers of newspaper and pack it snugly in a sturdy box. If you suspect an unusual problem, take a sample before spraying any fungicides. It is difficult to make an accurate diagnosis after a fungicide has been applied.

Turf Samples for Nematode Assay:

1. Collection of soil samples: Nematode populations are estimated most accurately with a composite sample. Use a 3/4 to 1 inch diameter soil probe, or something similar, and sample to a depth of four inches throughout the site. This depth is a compromise but represents the population distribution of different species fairly well.

  • When damage is evident: If a portion of the turf appears unhealthy, collect 15 to 20 subsamples from throughout the affected area and bulk them. For comparison, a composite sample may also be taken from an adjacent, healthy appearing area.
  • When no damage is evident: An entire green can be sampled by collecting 30 or 40 samples and combining them as one. However, if portions of the green have had a prior history of being weak, sample throughout the area collecting about 20 samples. Keep notes about where you sampled so you can return at a later date and sample the same general area.

2. Packaging the sample: The soil (at least 1/2 pint) should be placed in a container, such as a plastic bag, to prevent desiccation. Do not add water to the sample. Clearly identify the sample number on the outside of the container. Paper tags placed in contact with the soil deteriorate quickly. Do not subject the soil to high temperatures. After collection, refrigerate or deliver as soon as possible.

3. Address packages for Turf Nematode Analysis to:

Dr. Robert Wick
University of Massachusetts
109 Fernald Hall
270 Stockbridge Road
Amherst, MA 01003-9285

Turf Insect Specimens: 

Grubs and other soft-bodied insects should be placed in 70% ethyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol is not ideal, but may work). Other insects must be carefully packaged. Do not place loose insects into envelopes for mailing, as the automatic process for handling mail will most likely destroy the specimens.

Turf Weed or Turfgrass ID Specimens:

Fill out the Weed and Invasive Plant Form as completely as possible. Collect the whole plant, including the roots if possible, and select the healthiest plants available. Wrap roots in a wet paper towel. Place plant in a zip-lock or freezer bag and seal with some air in the bag in order to prevent crushing. Place bag in a sturdy box or envelope for mailing.

Diagnostic Fees (payment payable to University of Massachusetts):

  • Turf Disease Analysis - $75
  • Turf Nematode Assay - $75
  • Turf Insect ID - $50
  • Turf Weed ID - $25
  • Turfgrass ID - $25

For further information, visit:
The UMass Extension Turf Team

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