How To Take A Turfgrass Disease Sample

By Patrick O’Brien and Chris Hartwiger, Southeast Region Agronomists
February 3, 2010

Turfgrass diseases can be a challenge to superintendents. Sometimes, identifying the causal pathogen on the turf can be difficult, and the expertise of a diagnostic lab is necessary. Correct diagnosis of any disease problem is important, ensuring that the proper fungicides are used for suppression and control. In addition, correct diagnosis requires a representative sample that has been properly collected, packaged, and shipped to the lab. Some suggestions from the North Carolina State Turf Diagnostic Lab may assist you in sample preparation.

Collecting the Sample

A cup cutter is the preferred device to take a disease sample for submission to the diagnostic lab. Position the cutter over the diseased area and cut the sample such that approximately 2/3rds of the plug has disease symptoms and 1/3rd of the plug is healthy and without symptoms. The sampling technique is important. If the unhealthy turf area is caused by a disease, the actively growing fungus will be most vigorous on the margin between the healthy and diseased areas. Sample depth should be that of the root systems while shaking off any excess soil below. Take two samples for the diagnostic lab to ensure the best results.

Packaging the Sample

Wrap the soil and roots in aluminum foil and leave the foliage exposed. Leaving the foliage exposed allows the turf to continue to respire during the shipping process and prevents rapid decay. Place the samples in a box and secure the plugs with packing material, such as bubble wrap or newspaper. The plugs should be very secure, as the shipping process can sometimes be violent and this helps insure the plugs arrive in good condition. Within the package, include a lab submission form that usually is available for downloading from the diagnostic lab website. Close and tape the box, and ship overnight to provide the fastest delivery to the lab. The quicker the sample gets to the lab the better, and it provides the best opportunity for the technician and pathologist to detect a disease, if present.

Video for Golf Samples

Lee Butler, with the North Carolina State Turf Diagnostic Lab, has done a “How To” video that reviews the tips for success on submitting a turfgrass disease sample. Anyone can view this video at:

Source: Patrick O'Brien 770-229-8125 or and Chris Hartwiger 205-444-5079 or


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