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Gardening in Gwinnett: Cameras aid in diagnosing problems

Recently, a resident contacted me to ask about an insect she observed on her hibiscus plants. From her description of the insect, I suspected what it could be, but without actually seeing it I was unable to be certain. She sent me several digital pictures of the insect, and I was able to diagnose the problem as mealybugs, a common insect pest of many ornamental plants. I was then able to recommend treatment for it.

Yes, Extension has entered the digital age. Thanks to computer technology, diagnosing lawn and garden problems is much easier. A resident or landscaper who has problems with his or her lawns, trees, shrubs, flower or vegetable garden 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 plants and insects people come across but can't ID. To have pictures that show the problem as accurately as possible, get some close-up shots of the plant material then stand back and get some shots. If the problem is on the lawn, take some wide-angle photographs of the area in question. If you are trying to identify a weed or insect, take a close-up, clear picture of it, and provide information on where the weed is growing, or where the insect was found. Make sure there is enough light and the pictures are clear enough to accurately see what is being photographed. Pictures of poor quality are more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to reach a diagnosis or identification.

When sending the e-mail with the attached pictures, provide a brief description of the plant, the problem, environmental conditions such as temperature and moisture, how long the lawn or plant has been there, and any fertilizers and pesticides applied. Also note if the problem has occurred in past years. The more detailed the information, the better. Sometimes a physical sample is needed more than just pictures. In that case, bring the sample into the Extension office for diagnosis. But sending digital pictures reduces the likelihood the need to come into the office. Also, those who may not have access to digital photography can send conventional pictures to us through the mail. Just like the digital ones, make sure the photographs are clear and have adequate light.

Yes, high tech definitely works when diagnosing plant problems or identifying weeds and bugs. It can provide a more accurate and timely diagnosis than just a telephone talk or an e-mail. For those who have busy lives, sending in digital photographs saves time in identifying problems in the home landscapes. If you have any questions regarding sending digital or conventional photographs to us, please call our office or send me an e-mail.

Timothy Daly, is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent with Gwinnett County Extension. He can be contacted at 678-377-4010 or tdaly@uga.edu