Plant testing techniques and costs

Diagnosing plant health problems can be complex and often requires a range of tests to determine the underlying cause. We use a range of techniques to isolate and diagnose pests and pathogens. The tests have been split into the following 3 types.

Basic tests

Basic tests can be:

  • initial laboratory observations
  • dissection of plant material
  • bacterial ooze tests
  • moist incubations
  • 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.

Complex tests

Complex tests can be:

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

For each sample submitted, up to 3 complex tests are billed at the listed price. More than 3 complex tests may incur an extra charge. When symptoms appear across multiple regions of the plant (e.g. roots and stem tissue) we often need to complete more than 3 complex tests to make an accurate diagnosis.

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 take significantly longer to run than basic and complex tests.

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

Both basic and complex tests are generally performed on each sample, however, charges are based on the most expensive test required to make a diagnosis (e.g. if a basic and complex test is performed, we will only charge you for a complex test).

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. Funding is provided under the Resourcing, supporting, and assessing biosecurity in nursery production (NY20000) project. This project is funded by Hort Innovation Australia, the Nursery Levy Fund, and DAF.
  • Vegetable-production industries: All vegetable-production samples in Queensland receive free viral and bacterial diagnostics until the end of May 2022. Funding is provided under the Area wide management of vegetable diseases – viruses and bacteria (VG16086) project. This is a national project funded by Hort Innovation Australia, DAF and other government departments. (For vegetable samples outside Queensland, contact your local state diagnostic laboratory.)
Test type Standard client Nursery production business*
Basic $74.80 $49.40
Complex $131.00 $85.50
Specialist             The price varies but is generally between $100 and $250. The exact price will be discussed before testing. Discounts may apply for multiple samples that are run simultaneously.

* 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—contact Grow Help Australia on or phone our Customer Service Centre on 13 25 23 for details of other tests that are available.
  • Lower rates may apply for large bulk jobs—contact Grow Help Australia on 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 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).