Bringing that injured or stressed crop plant to Mississippi Extension specialists to be analyzed for pesticide residue or disease will likely provide valuable answers to your questions, but it will also now net you a bill.

At the start of 2002, Mississippi State University Extension labs began charging fees for services that had been free in the past and increasing nominal fees that had been charged for other testing services.

The Soil and Tissue Testing Laboratory, which had previously instituted service fees to partially cover the cost of testing, increased the fees it charges by a few dollars per sample due to the state's current financial situation.

Farmers will also now be charged for nematology and plant pathology analysis from the Nematology and Plant Pathology Laboratory at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss.

According to the Extension Service, a soil analysis will now cost you $6 per sample, a tissue analysis will cost $15, a plant pathology analysis costs $6, and a nematology analysis costs $11.

In addition, fees will now be assessed for services performed at the Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory. In the past the first $100 in services was free, but that now only applies to tests for protein moisture and ADF in hay samples.

Delta farmers have long relied on the testing laboratories at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Miss., but as with many government services that were once offered without charge, the university said it can no longer offer plant and soil analyses for free due to budget constraints.

For the testing laboratories to continue operating, it has become necessary to support them through user fees, a university spokesman said.

The Soil Testing Laboratory conducts soil tests, evaluates plant tissues for nutrient content, and makes nutrient recommendations. The Extension Nematology and Plant Pathology Laboratory provides diagnostic services to identify plant diseases, and tests soil samples for nematodes.

These services are costly to provide but important to the success of Mississippi's agricultural industry. It is, therefore, essential that the laboratories have sufficient resources to continue offering prompt and accurate analyses despite substantial recent reductions in state funding for the universities and the MSU Extension Service, a university spokesman said.

Both laboratories provide a full report with each analysis, along with recommendations for appropriate followup, including potential consultations with Extension specialists and/or agents.

The university contends that many taxpayers and public officials feel it is fair and reasonable to recover the cost of public services from those that benefit from them. And while it is important to continue providing analytical services, it is just as important that those services not be allowed to drain support from educational programs that help producers understand their test results and apply recommendation to their own operations.

For pricing information on fees for the Mississippi State Chemical Lab, the Nematology and Plant Pathology Laboratory, or the Soil and Tissue Laboratory, contact a local Mississippi Extension agent.


e-mail: dmuzzi@primediabusiness.com.