AgriLife Extension opens new plant disease diagnostic lab in Amarillo

Writer: Kay Ledbetter, 806-677-5608, skledbetter@ag.tamu.edu
Contact: Dr. Ken Obasa, 806-677-5600, ken.obasa@ag.tamu.edu

Dr. Ken Obasa, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist, holds two plates of fungal pathogens isolated from plant samples with disease symptoms diagnosed in the laboratory. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

AMARILLO – A new Texas High Plains Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory will be housed in the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 6500 Amarillo Blvd. West, Amarillo.

The new lab is one of two National Plant Diagnostic Network, NPDN, labs in Texas – the other is in College Station. It is also one of nine Great Plains Diagnostic Network, GPDN, labs in the Great Plains region of the U.S., and 51 in the country.

Wheat samples for disease diagnostics

Two wheat samples with the completed submission form for each is received at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo for disease diagnosis by the Texas High Plains Plant Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

Dr. Ken Obasa, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist, is in charge of the lab and has spent the past six months building it to the national network standards.

Obasa, who started this position in late September, brought experience with plant pathogens and multiple crop species, including cowpea, corn, rice, soybean, turfgrass and sugar beets. His program in Amarillo is designed to address ongoing and emerging disease issues in a wide variety of crops.

Sequence-based diagnostic equipment

Newly purchased machines used as part of the sequence-based diagnostic approach for plant pathogens in the laboratory. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

“Coming into this job, my priority was to get to know what fungal, viral and bacterial diseases are affecting the major crops of wheat, corn, sorghum and cotton here in the High Plains of Texas,” Obasa said. “My next priority was to build a lab that met all the NPDN standards to benefit the producers, crop advisers and county agents who are faced with those issues in their fields in this region.”

With the new lab comes new testing methods, especially for bacterial and fungal pathogens. Additionally, mycotoxin analysis and genetically modified organism, or GMO, test services are available. Obasa said he also can test urban plants for disease-related issues, but his primary focus will be on crops.

“We are able to test for four different wheat viruses: wheat streak mosaic, barley yellow dwarf, triticum mosaic and high plains virus,” Obasa said. “We will also be able to test for fumonisin, aflatoxin and deoxynivalenol in corn.”

Another service offered is seed testing for a fee of $50 per sample batch per pathogen. A single sample batch must include 300-500 seeds.

There is a $35 routine diagnostic charge that covers bacterial and fungal testing. This is for triage, microscopy, culturing and other basic tests as necessary, as well as diagnostic reports and management suggestions, he said.

The complete breakdown of tests and fees, as well as a copy of the submission form and guidelines, can be found at https://thppdd-lab.tamu.edu/.

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