Plant health encompasses a holistic approach to plant care, which include the management of biotic (pest, disease etc) and abiotic (light, water etc) stresses with the focus of maintaining healthy plants so that they are always at their optimal productivity. We at the Plant Pathology laboratory, Department of Food Production, UWI, St Augustine campus provide a well-rounded service to ensure optimal plant health and customer satisfaction. Symptom expression may be specific for certain pests, diseases, and nutrient related issues. In this case, the service provider may be able to provide on-site recommendations. Laboratory level examination and determination may be required to confirm some plant ailments. In this regard, appropriate protocols must be established to ensure that there is no redistribution of pests or pathogens, the appropriate tools and equipment are used, and the safety of the service provider and his environment is always maintained.
In the laboratory, isolation, incubation, and microscopic examination are vital procedures for pathogen identification. Given that some pathogens create unique symptom expression on their host, it may be easy to associate this symptom with the pathogen. However, this may not always be possible. When the disease is caused by a fungus, we rely on specialized structures produced by fungi. These structures are specific to a genus and the trained person can relate these structures to the organisms. If the pathogen does not produce these unique structures, then molecular techniques may be used. This manual highlights the basic diagnostic procedures for the identification of pathogens, pests, and soil issues.