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DALY: Digital photography helps diagnose landscaping issues

Recently a resident contacted me regarding some insects she observed infesting her hibiscus plants. From her description, I suspected what they were, but without actually seeing them, I could not be certain. She sent me several digital pictures of the insects.

They were identified as mealybugs, a common insect infesting many ornamental plants. An effective treatment could then be recommended for control.

Thanks to digital photography, diagnosing lawn and garden problems has become easier. A homeowner or landscaper who has problems with their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers or vegetable gardens can take digital photographs and send them to the Extension office via e-mail. In order to have pictures that accurately show the problem, get some close-up shots of the affected plant material, and then stand back to get some of the entire plant. For problems with lawns, take wide angle photographs of the problem area and then take close-up pictures.

If you are trying to identify a specific weed or insect, take pictures showing its major features and provide information on where the weed is growing or where the insect was found. Make sure these photographs are clear with adequate lighting. Poor quality photographs are difficult or even impossible to diagnose or identify.

When sending the e-mail with the attached pictures, provide a brief description of the plant and the problem. Also note the age of the plant, when you first noticed the problem, environmental conditions like temperature and moisture, and any chemicals applied. For those of you who do not have access to digital photography, you can send conventional pictures to the extension office through the mail. Just like the digital ones, make sure these are clear with appropriate light levels.

Yes, high technology definitely can be an effective tool in 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.

If you have any questions regarding sending digital or conventional photographs to us, please contact the Gwinnett Extension office.

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.