The national system has a "chain of command," which allows confidentiality until a pest has been confirmed, Burrows says.
Why confidentiality" Take the example of pale and golden cyst nematodes of potatoes, pests that have been identified in areas neighboring Montana (the pale cyst nematode in Idaho and the golden cyst nematode in Alberta) but not yet in Montana.
"Say the news got out that Montana had either golden or pale cyst nematode in potatoes," Burrows says. "If that got into the news media before it was confirmed, other states and countries could refuse to buy our potatoes, but we might not have the problem at all."
So the team employs the chain of command to confirm their identification of lesser threats. For instance, a crop consultant can submit photos or a physical specimen to the lab of a plant that is infected. It might be a common disease, or it might be something new to Montana.
"We can go through the chain of command exercise to practice handling a situation before a crisis occurs," she says.
Crisis mode is, however, just one aspect of the lab's service to Montana and the country.
The experts serve Montanans each day, diagnosing the causes of plant growth problems and developing management recommendations for both agricultural producers and home gardeners. The public can submit diseased plant, insect and weed samples through their local county Extension office.
|Contact: Evelyn Boswell|
Montana State University