Solve a problem related to plants, water, or soil
The problem-solving process: Details
The challenges of diagnosing abiotic disorders are many:
- Abiotic (nonliving) and biotic (living) agents can cause injury to landscape plants, so knowing exactly what caused a particular problem sometimes is difficult.
- Distinguishing between abiotic and biotic disorders can be difficult in some instances.
- A landscape may exhibit high variability in plant species, soil quality, microclimate, and sun exposure.
- A problem observed in a landscape often can have multiple causes or factors.
- Chronic problems may express only subtle symptoms.
Accurately diagnosing plant problems depends on the following:
- Observing subtle differences from the normal in plant appearance or the surrounding environment
- Possessing good knowledge of plants, soil, climate, cultural practices, pests, diseases, and their interactions
- Having accurate information about the recent history of affected plants, the site, the climate, and cultural practices
- Using a few simple tools to diagnose the problem; these may include: a sturdy pocketknife, shovel, pruning shears, hand lens, and digital camera
- Using analytical approaches (testing of water, soil, and plant tissue) to diagnose difficult problems
General diagnostic checklist and strategy:
- How many plants are affected? What species are they?
- Is there a pattern spatially, and are the problem areas grouped in relation to topography or prevailing wind directions?
- Does the site appear to be favorable for the plants?
- Are there depressions where frost often is prevalent or where drainage is poor?
- Are soils at the site soggy, moist, or dry?
- Does the soil have normal color and odor, or is it dark gray in color with aroma like rotten eggs?
- Has there been recent construction, paving, excavation, or soil filling?
- Where are the gas, water, sewer, septic fields located?
Step-by-step diagnostic strategy that could lead to corrective actions specific to the problem:
- Identify the plants — Determine genus, species, and, if appropriate, cultivar
- Identify the symptoms — Examine the injured part and list all symptoms
- Inspect the whole plant — Examine all parts of the plant, not just the injured area
- Inspect the site — Look for conditions that may contribute to the injury
- Look for patterns in the symptoms
- Investigate the site's history of plant management
- Synthesize the information collected and identify the most likely causes
- Test likely causes — analyses of soil, water, and plant tissue are frequently valuable for accurate diagnosis