Diagnostic & Laboratory Services
Extension agents have access to a number of laboratories and special services to help them respond to the needs of the agriculture and natural resources industry while also protecting the environment. Professional technicians provide recommendations and diagnostic services for:
Soil samples are analyzed for specific soil nutrients to determine proper application rates of fertilizer and lime for optimum plant growth. Routine analysis includes soil pH, P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Mn, Cu, Fe, and B. Soluble Salts and Organic Matter tests are also available. Completed soil test results, along with a recommendation on fertilization and liming, are mailed to the client. Sampling and mailing instructions are found on the sample boxes and forms, which should be sent directly to the lab with the soil sample and payment. Soil sample boxes and information sheets are available at your local Extension office.
Laboratory testing of forages for nutrient content and quality is an important management tool and can be used to detect feed management problems, balance an animal’s ration, and predict how much forage an animal will consume. Knowing the quality of the forages you are selling or buying is economically wise as well. It is important to know the nutrient content of forages before feeding, especially dry matter, crude protein, fiber, and estimated energy. Your local Extension agent can provide forage sampling instructions, testing, and an interpretation of the results for your farm.
The Virginia Tech Insect Identification Lab provides identification and control recommendations to Virginia Cooperative Extension agents. Insect samples and insect damaged plant material from any structural, plant, or animal hosts are accepted. Insects are identified to the lowest taxonomic level needed for control decisions. Control recommendations accompany insect identification results, which are sent back electronically to each Virginia Cooperative Extension office. Digital photos can also be used for identification. Many insects can be identified and control recommendations provided by your local Extension Office.
Funded through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), manure samples are sent to the Clemson University Agriculture Service Laboratory for testing. Samples are analyzed for: % Moisture, Total Nitrogen or TKN, Total Phosphate, Potash, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur and certain micronutrients reported in pounds per 1,000 gallons and as a percentage on a wet basis. Containers, sample forms, and instructions can be obtained from a local Extension office. Your local Extension agent or DCR nutrient management specialist should be consulted for interpretation of the results.
Contact: Your local Virginia Cooperative Extension agent
The success of the Nematode Advisory Program depends on the cooperation of the agricultural community, the Extension agents and the Nematode Assay Laboratory. Proper sampling, completion of appropriate forms, and careful laboratory analysis are all necessary to provide the grower with appropriate recommendations on nematode management. The Nematode Advisory Program can help growers avoid costly yield loss due to plant parasitic nematodes.
The Plant Disease Clinic provides plant disease diagnostic services to Virginia Cooperative Extension agents. Plant samples with problems caused by pathogens, including fungi, bacteria, viruses, and nematodes, in addition to plant samples with environmental or other abiotic problems may be submitted to the Plant Disease Clinic. Diagnosis is provided for any type of plant. Other services provided by the Plant Disease Clinic include mushroom identification and identification of non-weedy plants. Digital photos can also be identified.
The Plant Disease Clinic is a member of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) within the region of the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network. The mission of the NPDN is to enhance national agricultural security by quickly detecting introduced pests and pathogens. Many plant diseases can be identified and recommendations provided by your local Extension office.
The Virginia Tech Toxicology Laboratory provides analyses for heavy metals, minerals (deficiencies and poisonings), Vitamins A and E, pesticides, rodenticides, mycotoxins, nitrate, and cyanide. The majority of samples submitted to the laboratory deal with forage and feed analyses for mycotoxins, nitrate, and cyanide. Mycotoxins are typically not a problem in hay or haylage. Your local Extension office can help you with samples for toxicology.
The Virginia Household Water Quality Program (VAHWQP) seeks to improve the water quality of Virginians using private water supplies. Since the program started in 1989, VAHWQP drinking water clinics have been conducted in 82 counties across the state. So far, samples from 12,000 households have been analyzed and results confidentially returned to participants. Drinking water clinics are organized by your local Extension Agent and Virginia Tech faculty in the Biological Systems Engineering Department. Participation is voluntary and all information is kept strictly confidential. Anyone with a private water supply system (including wells, springs, and cisterns) may participate. Virginia Cooperative Extension trains citizens in proper well construction and location, appropriate maintenance and protection of wells and springs, interpretation of water tests, and water treatment options.
The Weed Identification Lab provides identification and control recommendations to Virginia Cooperative Extension agents. If possible, weed samples should include leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and seed. Digital photos are also identified. Many plants can be identified and recommendations provided by your local Extension office.