Plant Lab Has Seen It All
Plant diseases are their specialty, but this trio of dedicated flora detectives gets samples of every stripe at their lab. Anything plant related can arrive in the mail. A woman sent a mushroom part in the mail, wanting to know if it was responsible for her hospital stay. Another curious citizen mailed bloody skin – presumably his own – to see if it had parasites. But most of the detective work is focused on plant diseases and insects.
At the Schutter Diagnostic Lab at Montana State University, three scientists toil to discover the roots of problems with plants. The plant disease specialist is Eva Grimme. A second specialist has the title of Urban Insect Diagnostician and Assistant Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Specialist, and her name is Laurie Kerzicnik. A third scientist, Noelle Orloff, has arrived recently to help handle the many specimens that arrive at the lab daily.
With such a heavy caseload, Mary Burrows, who supervises the lab and is also an MSU Extension Plant Pathologist, says she’d need an extra employee just to count all the inquiries. She suggests that if you are a resident of the state, start with your local Extension agents if you are wondering about insects or plants.
All lab services are free to state residents, but out-of-staters need to pay a small fee to have their plants examined.