Rutgers Cooperative Extension provides plant diagnostic and soil testing laboratory services for New Jersey residents.
Soil testing and plant diagnostic services are provided by Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE). These laboratories provide New Jersey residents with analyses of soil and diagnoses of plant problems in an accurate and timely manner in an effort to meet the agricultural and environmental needs of the state.The Rutgers Plant Diagnostic Laboratory (PDL) is a full-service plant health diagnostic facility. Since opening in 1991, the laboratory has examined nearly 46,500 samples submitted for plant disease and insect pest diagnosis, nematode detection, or insect identification and has become an important resource for commercial plant managers, pesticide applicators, and residential clients. The PDL is also an integral part of extension and university programs, providing diagnostic and educational services in support of the teaching, research, and outreach efforts of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and NJAES.
The PDL is on the front lines in the detection of pathogens and insects that have had significant impact in New Jersey. In 2013, the lab was the first to identify boxwood blight from New Jersey landscapes and nurseries, and in 2016 began accepting emerald ash borer specimens. Along with federal and state regulators, PDL is part of the Cooperative Pest Survey Team, which participates in pest monitoring programs, including those for walnut twig beetle and Ramorum blight.
The Rutgers Soil Testing Laboratory (STL) processes an average of more than 8,000 samples each year for chemical and/or physical analysis. The lab plays an integral role in soil nutrient management for horticultural, agronomic, and environmental assessments for the public and RCE, and programs for the school and NJAES.
While the STL continues to serve the soil analysis needs of gardeners, farmers, companies, golf courses, government agencies, and NGOs, it is now a key resource for urban communities by providing soil lead screening. For example, in 2016, lead screening was conducted on 159 samples, revealing about 35% with lead concentrations above currently accepted levels for vegetable gardens.
The bulk of samples submitted to the lab are for fertility and pH analysis, with 47% of soil samples that were tested for fertility showing deficiencies of at least one macronutrient (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium), 33% of soil samples had pH below the optimum range for the selected crop, and 26% had pH above the optimum range. The Soil Testing Lab is also a valuable resource for university researchers who submit samples that assist their work in evaluating fertilizer needs of various crops, assess soil microbial respiration as a measure of soil health, and establish optimum background conditions for other studies.
This story originally appeared in the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Annual Report 2016.