An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Regional Plant Diagnostic Center Laboratory


The overall goal for this project is to enhance our national agricultural security from bioterrorist attack through protection of health and productivity of plants in agricultural and natural ecosystems in the US. Our mission as the regional coordinator is to promote the health and security of plants by intercepting, preventing and managing plant diseases and pests that could threaten our agriculture. In response to recent national concerns for bioterrorist activities that can affect our crop and food supply, the proposed Southern Plant Diagnostic Network (SPDN) will seek to accomplish its mission by working with partners throughout southern U.S. to (i) establish a secure, regional network for the detection and diagnosis of plant health problems, (ii) extend and support sound public policies, implement rapid and accurate diagnoses, management and response strategies, and (iii) provide leadership and training to first detectors. The University of Florida will establish this network with 11 other southern states and one U.S. territory (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Puerto Rico) to improve regional capabilities for rapid and accurate identification and diagnosis to safeguard against newly introduced and re-emerging pests and pathogens, genetically modified pathogens, pesticide-resistant pathogens and natural changes in endemic organisms. In addition to partnering with states, UF will develop a network that communicates with APHIS, CSREES, the State Departments of Agriculture (SDAs) and the private sector (including crop consultants) to prevent a successful bioterrorist attack.

More information

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: In response to concerns about bioterrorist activities that could affect our nation's crops and food supply, the USDA-CSREES has created a National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) consisting of experts from the nation's land grant universities. The network will provide a cohesive, distribution system to quickly detect, identify and report pests that have been deliberately or accidentally introduced into agricultural and national ecosystems. The network will also communicate with the USDS-APHIS, the State Department of Agriculture, EDEN and the private sector in order to prevent agricultural bioterrorism. mission of this network is to Establish a secure, regional , web-linked network and database for the early detection and diagnosis of plant health problems Extend and support sound public policies Implement rapid and accurate diagnosis, management and response strategies Provide leadership and training to first detectors.


APPROACH: The first priority for improvement of our diagnostic clinics on a regional basis is to develop a secure, two-way, up-to-date, Web-based record keeping and communications system as first responders to a crop biosecurity situation. This will entail a functional nationwide network of public agricultural institutions with a cohesive, distributed system to quickly detect high consequence pests and pathogens that have been deliberately introduced into agricultural and natural ecosystems, identify them, and report them to appropriate responders and decision makers. We will work with representatives from each state in the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network (SPDN) to coordinate a communications and distance diagnosis system early in this process. As a computer network is developed, the information on pests and pathogens from all clinics will be shared throughout the southeast region and networked with NAPIS at Purdue. A common goal for the SPDN land grant university diagnostic clinics is to establish basic minimum standard and capabilities for each. This will include the basic equipment, digital imaging capabilities for diagnosis, and staff trained in basic diagnostic methodologies. There are numerous items and personnel that should be provided and maintained to enhance current capabilities to employ the most rapid and accurate molecular, biological and electronic technologies. This plan is designed to share technology with the affiliated clinics, first-responders, extension faculty, State Department of Agriculture (SDA) labs, crop consultants and end-users. It would provide a Web-based system for sample management and tracking, educational materials and training. Another critical objective for the regions is to develop a database of available techniques, reference repositories/herbaria and specific expertise that can be utilized for diagnostic purposes. This will be accomplished as part of the outreach, training and educational programs that our group will develop in the region. This will include a central Web site, regional educational/training opportunities and yearly regional meetings.

<P>PROGRESS: 2002/07 TO 2007/06 <BR>
The SPDN is comprised of 12 states and 2 Territories in the Southeast. The U.S. Virgin Islands joined in 2006, extending the reach of early detection efforts into the Caribbean. SPDN states met 5 times since 2002. We included State Departments of Agriculture, IPM, entomology, and industry representatives in state and regional activities, and developed an Advisory Council in 2006, which advises SPDN governance on policy and financial matters. The SPDN participated in the NPDN national meeting January 2007, and SPDN members are active on all NPDN Subcommittees and have participated in symposia at the APS, ESA, and State Plant Board meetings and legislator days at our nation's capitol. Our training program reached over 12,000 ag-related personnel nationally. SPDN educational efforts for entomology increased our interactions with that group. A regional web site, brochures and monthly newsletter with a distribution of 3,000 ag-related personnel are maintained, updated, and distributed. Hundreds of presentations were made to raise awareness of SPDN and NPDN missions. The IT Committee connected all SPDN member states to the SPDN database, continued NPDN IT support, a Learning Management System, and revision of the XML schema and worked with the Training and Education Committee to integrate training efforts with a web-based application to assist and track users of the NPDN educational modules. The regional hub received a favorable evaluation of the security of regional databases and other IT equipment and products, and continues to ensure security of SPDN data and technology. The SPDN Diagnostics Committee determined the minimum capability standards for the region, and each year's funding focused on addressing these needs; all members have improved diagnostic capabilities, including some form of digital imaging for distance diagnosis. The hub lab maintained approval by APHIS to perform advanced diagnosis of Phytophthora ramorum. All SPDN states received training for soybean rust diagnosis, and several received training for P. ramorum, plum pox, citrus greening, and Ralstonia. Diagnostic training continues throughout the region. As materials are developed for training on select agents, these and standard operating procedures (SOPs) are distributed to each state. The SPDN distributed a set of NPDN SOPs to each state during the 2005 regional meeting in Atlanta, GA. SPDN states have demonstrated surge capacity diagnostics for Phytophthora ramorum (sudden oak death), Phakopsora pachyrhizi (soybean rust), and other regulatory and non-regulatory organisms. The current Communications SOP, approved by APHIS and the State Plant Board, is available and in use by all SPDN institutions during a regulatory detection event. The exercises for soybean rust were helpful in this aspect of response, as was the 2004 SPDN soybean rust workshop, during which each state diagrammed their response protocols for their emergency response pathway. These plans were used during the initial detections of soybean rust in 2004 and to develop a prototype to illustrate ways of using Event-Trigger-Rule technology to automatically issue alerts within the NDPN network.
<BR> <BR>
IMPACT: 2002/07 TO 2007/06<BR>
The NPDN national education and training program, which is the programmatic responsibility of the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network (SPDN), has raised awareness and recognition of plant pests and pathogens, and increased the number of new reports in our crops nationally. The training and diagnostics efforts on Soybean Rust allowed for rapid and accurate communication and diagnosis of positive outbreaks in the United States. The Spanish translations of our pest alerts allow us to reach a new audience of First Detectors. All states in the SPDN have improved their minimum diagnostic capabilities through the purchase of supplies, equipment, training, and most importantly, the hiring of new diagnostic personnel. The SPDN hub lab is now provisionally approved for advanced testing for Sudden Oak Death and Citrus Greening, by the USDA-APHIS-PPQ. Our entomology workshops have increased the ability of regional and national identifiers to accurately detect new and high-impact insect pests as they occur. All of our states are now transmitting diagnostic clinic data to our national database, which allows for real-time mapping of new diagnoses as soon as they are confirmed. State-level diagnostic labs, extension specialists, and IPM coordinators in the region are collaborating on a new level, integrating research, survey, and diagnostics within the IPM Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (PIPE).

Wisler, Gail
University of Florida
Start date
End date
Project number
Accession number