How the Digital Crop Doc works
Do you have disease developing in one of your fields? Are you wondering what it might be or are you looking for confirmation? The UMN Extension crops team is launching a new program to help you with disease diagnosis in several crops:
- Small grains
Simply fill out the following form and submit photos of the diseased plants that you'd like diagnosed. You'll find helpful tips for taking photos in the Frequently Asked Questions section below. After you submit the form and photos, one of our team members will contact you with a diagnosis, a request for more information or a suggestion to submit the samples to a plant disease clinic.
Remember, the more information that you can give us, the better we will be able to diagnose what's going on in your field!
Frequently asked questions
There are some general do’s and don’ts regarding lighting and focus when it comes to capturing good diagnostic photos. Sometimes there can be foliar symptoms caused by pathogens that remain in root or stem tissue. Don’t assume that because the most evident symptoms may be in the foliage that splitting stems/stalks/roots won’t provide valuable clues that will aid in diagnosis.
Natural lighting is important
Be sure and try and capture photos using good natural lighting. Oftentimes bringing plant samples back to the office and out of the wind, also brings them out of sunlight and results in poor picture quality.
Capture both leaf surfaces
For foliar disease symptoms, capture photos from both the top and bottom leaf surfaces. Sometimes getting photos of leaf tissue that is back-lit (the leaf is situated between your camera and the sun) can reveal important clues.
Don't forget the stalks and stems
Examine the outside of stems/stalks and capture a photo of any lesions (a fancy word for a wound caused by a pathogen) that are present.
Ignore the dead plants! Capture the sick, but alive ones!
Do not capture photos of dead plants. If you observe a patch of dead or diseased plants, look to adjacent, still living plants for photos. There are many fungi that are not pathogens and yet colonize dead or dying plant tissue. Even if one were to send dead plants in to a plant disease clinic a diagnosis would be unlikely even given for laboratory diagnostic techniques. Compare and contrast: capture photos of healthy and diseased plants from the same field for comparison.
Use your zoom
Please use your fingers to zoom in on the photos you capture to submit to the DCD to make sure that what you are trying to show is clearly visible. If you can't see what you were trying to capture, we won't be able to either.
There is no cost to use this service! Your submissions will help to alert us to new or emerging field crop diseases throughout the state. This will help us to better focus our research and education programs to meet the needs of Minnesota crop producers and other ag professionals. Consequently, the University of Minnesota Extension crops team is offering this service free of charge.
Our goal is to communicate with you to provide a diagnosis or obtain additional information that would better lead to a diagnosis and prompt management, if it's warranted. Consequently, we will strive to reach you within three business days of submission.
To provide a diagnosis and management recommendations, expect someone from the UMN Extension crops team to contact you by phone or email.
The crops team member will let you know if he/she recommends sending a sample to the plant disease clinic for a definitive diagnosis.
Diagnoses and management recommendations provided by this program or by algorithms within free or paid smartphone apps are only as good as the quality of information (photos and context clues) that you can provide.
While we will be able to provide diagnoses and recommendations for some submissions with a high degree of confidence, for other submissions, diagnoses would only be possible by sending a sample to a plant disease clinic. For viral diseases or diseases caused by multiple pathogens working together, laboratory tests may be the only way to provide a diagnosis.
Reviewed in 2023