A good quality sample and detailed information on the history of the problem is important for accurate, timely diagnosis and appropriate recommendations. To expedite identification, diagnosis, and recommendations, please follow the following guidelines.

For additional information about sample collection and submission contact your local Extension office or the Schutter Diagnostic Lab at 406-994-5150.

How to submit a sample

  • Include completed sample submission form  with pertinent background information. In-depth background information will help us identify the problem or organism and is essential for timely management recommendations.

  • Keep samples as fresh as possible until you can ship them. Avoid exposing the sample to direct sunlight and refrigerate if possible.

  • Mail packages early in the week to arrive by Friday. Do not mail fresh samples on a Thursday (unless using overnight mail) or Friday. Store the package in the refrigerator over the weekend and mail on Monday. We want to avoid samples sitting at the post office over the weekend.

  • Package samples in crush-proof containers. Never send samples in a flat paper envelope – the post office machinery causes extensive damage.

  • Include photographs illustrating the problem if possible. Make sure photos are in focus and include your name and contact information with sample submissions. Email the photographs to diagnostics@montana.edu.

  • Mailing address for all samples: Schutter Diagnostic Lab, 119 Plant BioScience Facility, P.O. Box 173150, Bozeman, MT 59717- 3150.


    Back to Top


 Plant Disease Sample Collection and Submission

Sample submission example
  • Send sufficient plant material. Collect samples that show various stages of the problem and include a healthy plant or plant part for comparison. Whenever it is practical, include roots or the entire plant or a clump of plants. If that is not possible, include a branch or send a twig. Detached leaves or parts of leaves are seldom useful.

  • If you are sending a plant that includes roots, keep some soil around the root ball and off foliage. Wrap the root ball in plastic and secure with a rubber band around the base of the plant. This prevents the soil from damaging the leaves during shipping. Loosely enclose the foliage in plastic or paper. Do not add water or wet paper towels.

  • Avoid sending dead plants or plant parts since they are not useful for accurate diagnosis.


    Back to Top


Plant ID Sample Collection and Submission

  • Package the plant carefully. Place specimen in a ziplock bag, seal it and place bag in a padded envelope or box. Do not add wet paper towels or water.

  • The ideal sample is an entire plant with flowers and roots intact. If this is not possible, send as many plant parts as possible (i.e. flowers, leaves, stems, roots, seeds, fruits, etc) to increase the chances of an accurate identification. 


    Back to Top


Insect ID Sample Collection and Submission

  • We do not process human-related insect identification samples such as scotch tape samples from skin, hair, or other tissue samples. Insect identification samples must be a visible insect or arthropod that can be placed in a collecting jar or vial. 

  • Collect several insect specimens if possible

  • Place specimens in sturdy clear containers with tight fitting lids that are strong enough to survive mail or courier services.

    • Hard-bodied specimens can be sent in containers (rubbing alcohol not required).

    • Aphids, mites, spiders, small flies and larvae need to be sent in rubbing alcohol.

    • Caterpillars should be flash boiled (1 min) before placing in rubbing alcohol. 

    • Turf insects can be sent alive in soil/root samples mailed in a crush-proof box.

  • Describe damage of concern. If the insect is not included in the sample (damage sample only) describe the insect if possible (shape, body length, coloring, behavior).

  • Include the following collection information on your submission form:

    • Collection date.

    • Collection location (e.g. Helena MT).  Or, give nearest town and distance / direction from it (e.g. 7 mi. SW of Helena MT).

    • Collector’s name (not Extension agent etc).

    • Host plant identification (for example, green ash).  If the host is not a plant, describe environment of collection site (for example, kitchen windowsill, basement, bag of rice). 


      Back to Top


Mushroom ID Sample Collection and Submission

  • Submit fresh specimens. If possible include both young and mature samples.

  • Send a complete specimen. Include the whole mushroom cap, stem and most importantly any underground structures.

  • Send at least 2 specimens. Wrap each specimen separately in wax paper or newspaper.

  • Do not place specimens in plastic bags since this will hasten decay.

  • What is your question is about the mushroom? For example, are you curious whether the mushroom is edible or poisonous?

    Back to Top