“The ability to detect or gauge plant health is a skill that takes time and experience to develop,” explains Robert Spencer, commercial horticultural specialist at the Alberta Ag-Info Centre. “It is a bit of an art form, combined with varying depths of science to back it up.”

Spencer says that at the heart of any diagnosis is a clear understanding and picture of what the plant or crop is “supposed” to look like. “It is a simple contrast and comparison between the mental picture and what is right in front of us.”

He notes that there are many variables to consider when determining whether a plant is achieving its full potential. “Many of these require a deeper dive into the nuances and variations and can be entirely subjective.”

These comparisons include:

  • Plant vigour
  • Plant size
  • Leaf colour
  • Plant shape
  • Amount of root growth and perhaps the colour of the roots
  • Amount of flowering
  • Odour
  • Uniformity of the entire plant, leaves, stems, flowers, etc.
  • Evidence of lesions, spots, stripes, pustules, flecks, pinholes, or any number of other symptoms and signs of infection or infestation

“Diagnosing plant health is very much a subjective, comparative process, where one attempts to judge whether the plant being examined is performing as well as it could, versus the other plants surrounding the one being examined,” he adds.

Go to Diagnosing plant problems for a list of questions that producers can use to narrow down variables that can affect a plant’s growth.

Contact

Connect with the Alberta Ag-Info Centre:

Hours: 8 am to 5 pm (open Monday to Friday, closed statutory holidays)
Toll free: 310-FARM (3276)