Plant testing techniques and costs

Diagnosing plant health problems can be complex and often requires a range of tests to determine the underlying cause. Techniques used vary in the time taken and equipment required, which is reflected in the costs charged.

Generally we use as few tests as required to accurately diagnose the problem as quickly as possible. Sequencing and molecular tests are sometimes necessary to make a positive identification. These tests are costly but only included if results could impact management decisions. The tests, grouped into basic, complex and specialists, are explained below.

Basic tests

Basic tests can be:

  • initial laboratory observations
  • dissecting plant material
  • bacterial ooze tests
  • other microscopic examinations that can be completed without culturing or rearing the causal agent.

For each sample, we will complete 3 basic tests for the listed price (see table below). More than 3 basic tests per sample may incur an extra charge. In general, you'll only be charged the basic fee if no complex tests were completed.

Complex tests

Complex tests can be:

  • isolating and growing fungal or bacterial pathogens on specific media
  • Phytophthora soil or root baiting tests
  • slide mounting and identifying insect specimens (where expertise exists)
  • moist incubations
  • completing 1–2 lateral-flow, immunostrip tests (e.g. to detect specific pathogens in plant material).

For each sample submitted, up to 2 complex tests are billed at the listed price. More than 2 complex tests may incur an extra charge. When symptoms appear across multiple regions of the plant (e.g. roots and stem tissue) we usually need to complete more than 3 complex tests to make an accurate diagnosis. Likewise, where there are root rot symptoms, we usually complete more than 2 complex tests to detect a wide range of pathogens.

Both basic and complex tests are generally performed on each sample and we do not charge for 1–3 basic tests when we also complete complex tests. Most samples received are charged at least 1 complex test; however, if more complex tests are needed, you will be charged as required.

Specialist tests

Specialist tests can be:

  • electron microscopic examination for virus particles
  • molecular techniques including PCR, DNA sequencing and ELISA tests.

These tests generally cost more because they require expensive ingredients and equipment. Sequencing is completed by a third party laboratory.

Tests we do not complete

We do not test plants to:

  • identify plant species, variety, or cultivar
  • detect chemicals such as insecticides, fungicides or herbicides on the plant or growing media
  • analyse nutrient levels in the plant or growing media
  • detect bacteria in seeds, soil or growing media.

Cost for analysing plant samples

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) has contracts with Hort Innovation Australia that provide free and discounted diagnostics for certain industries:

  • Production nursery industry: All production nursery businesses in Australia receive 6 free samples a year from 2021 to the end of 2025. Discounted rates will apply if more than 6 samples are submitted in a calendar year.
  • Vegetable-production industries: All vegetable-production samples in Queensland receive free viral and bacterial diagnostics until the end of May 2022. (For vegetable samples outside Queensland, contact your local state diagnostic laboratory.)
Test type Standard client Nursery production business*
Basic $104.60 $51.50
Complex $181.10 $89.20
Specialist             The price varies. The exact price will be discussed before testing. Discounts may apply for multiple samples that are run simultaneously.  Please contact us for more details.

* Refer to notes on production nursery samples above.

  • All prices include GST.
  • Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • Tests listed are those commonly requested—for details of other available tests, contact Grow Help Australia on growhelp@daf.qld.gov.au or phone our Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23.
  • Lower rates may apply for large bulk jobs—contact Grow Help Australia on growhelp@daf.qld.gov.au or phone our Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23 for more information.

Making payment

We will send you an invoice by email after you have received the diagnostic report. You can pay by:

  • BPAY (including credit card)
  • cheque
  • money order.

Note to crop consultants: Invoices will be made out to you if you submit samples on behalf of a grower. If you would like us to invoice the grower then ask the grower to complete the submission form (or complete it on their behalf).