Digital imaging answers plant, pest problems quickly
By Rob Wynstra
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
URBANAFor both homeowners and professionals, fast and accurate answers to most plant and pest problems are available at University of Illinois Extension offices around the state. An array of Extension experts are linked directly to those offices through the Distance Diagnostics System.
Using the latest digital equipment, the staff at local offices can take high quality images of the plant and pest problems, said Dennis Bowman, project coordinator and Crop Systems educator at the Champaign Extension Center. The images, along with information about the problem, are then submitted to the appropriate experts. Last year, more than 20 percent of the samples were diagnosed within two hours of submission and nearly 75 percent within 48 hours.
Bowman notes that the service is now in its third year of statewide operation and is provided free through local Extension offices.
In 2002, more than 700 people in every part of the state received answers to their plant and pest problems through the Distance Diagnostics System, Bowman said. We have more than 50 Extension educators, specialists, and U of I faculty available through this system to provide their diagnosis for almost every problem.
He points out this imaging technology allows every Extension office in the state to have almost instant access to the diagnostic skills of those experts.
We have an unsurpassed range of available experts, Bowman said. The group includes highly trained specialists with expertise in field crops, forage crops, turf, fruits, commercial vegetables, and home pest problems.
He adds that the system has been further upgraded this year to provide improved service to Extension clients.
The changes include improved systems reports and added printer-friendly forms that will speed up the process, Bowman said. Other internal upgrades allow for a better search function and improved notification of undiagnosed samples. As a result, we are now responding faster than ever with answers to the many plant and pest problems that people submit to us.