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Technology makes diagnosing plant problems simpler

A resident contacted me recently to ask about dead spots in his Bermuda grass lawn. I had a suspicion of what was causing the spots based on his description of the problem. But without actually seeing his lawn, I was unable to be certain.

After he sent me several digital pictures of the lawn in question, though, I was able to diagnose the problem as dollar spot, a fungal disease, and recommended treatment.

Thanks to computer technology, diagnosing lawn and garden problems has become much easier. A resident or landscaper who has problems with their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetable gardens can take digital photographs and send them to me via e-mail so the problem can be identified.

This technique is also useful in identifying mysterious plants and insects that people come across.

To make sure the pictures show the problem as accurately as possible, take several close-up shots of the plant material and then stand back and get some shots from farther away. If the problem is on the lawn, take a few wide-angle photographs of the area in question.

If you're trying to identify a weed or insect, take a close-up, clear picture of it. In the e-mail message, provide information on where the weed is growing, or where the insect was found.

When you send the

e-mail with the attached pictures, it's helpful to provide a brief description of the plant, the problem, how long the lawn or plant has been there, any fertilizers and pesticides applied, and environmental conditions - such as temperature and moisture. If the problem has occurred in past years, you should also note that. The more detailed the information, the better.

Sometimes, a digital photo just doesn't suffice, and a physical sample is needed to diagnose the problem. In that case, residents can bring the sample into the extension office. Also, those who don't have access to digital photography can send conventional photographs to us through the mail. Just as with the digital ones, make sure the photographs are clear and adequately lit.

Yes, technology definitely helps when diagnosing plant problems or identifying weeds and bugs. It can provide a more accurate and timely diagnosis than just a telephone conversation or an e-mail. For those who have busy lives, sending in digital photographs also saves time.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.