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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

URI Plant Protection Clinic expands services
to tick identification, soil pH testing

KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 14, 2003 -- The Plant Protection Clinic at the University of Rhode Island has long been the place where Rhode Islanders could find out why their plants are dying or to identify a pest insect in their garden. Since 1975 it has offered solutions to insect infestations and plant diseases and resolved many other gardening problems.

Now it has expanded its services to be an even greater resource. Starting this month, the clinic will conduct soil tests to determine pH levels, and identify whether a tick is the potentially harmful deer tick, which transmits Lyme disease, or if it’s the harmless common dog tick.

Dave Wallace at the clinic
Dave Wallace inspects a sample at the plant clinic.
"We’re providing these new services because other labs that used to provide these services are no longer doing so and yet the demand is still there," said Dave Wallace, director of the Plant Protection Clinic.

Soil testing is an especially sought-after service by gardeners. Wallace said that plants must be grown in the proper soil, and different species require different soil conditions. Potatoes, blueberries, rhododendrons and azaleas, for instance, prefer acidic soil, while most other vegetables and flowers prefer a more neutral soil. "If you don’t know the pH of your soil, you may have a hard time growing what you want."

Since Rhode Island has one of the highest rates of Lyme disease infection in the country, area residents are appropriately concerned about tick bites. The first step to determining whether a tick could transmit Lyme disease is to know if it’s a deer tick, the only species that delivers the bacterium that causes the disease.

According to Wallace, tick identification is tricky since both deer ticks and dog ticks look similar in some stages of growth.

"We can easily identify whether it’s a deer tick or a dog tick," he said, "but if it is a deer tick, we can’t tell if it’s infected with the bacterium." For that, Wallace provides clients with the address of a lab in Massachusetts that can determine whether the tick carries the disease.

The clinic now also provides identification of lawn pests and lawn weeds.

The URI Plant Protection Clinic is located adjacent to the Cooperative Extension Education Center on URI’s Kingston Campus. Soil, tick, plant and insect samples can be brought to the clinic Tuesdays through Fridays between 9 and noon, and most identifications can be done while you wait.

Samples may also be mailed to 3 East Alumni Avenue, Kingston, RI 02881. Ticks can be mailed in a zipper-type plastic bag, while other insects should be mailed in a film can or other container that won’t get crushed.

Soil pH tests cost $5, while all other services cost $10 per sample. For more information, call 874-2967 during clinic hours or 874-2900 at other times.

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