The diagnostic laboratories within the Plant Health Directorate are involved in the diagnosis of the different plant pests and diseases. They also provide a valuable service to the plant Quarantine personnel when interceptions are found. Within this section five different disciplines are included:
The Diagnostic Laboratories consist in:
the Entomology Lab,
the Mycology Lab,
the Nematology Lab,
the Bacteriology Lab and
the Virology Lab.
The Entomology Lab
This lab, which is also housed at the Agricultural Research Centre at Għammieri, is a fully equipped laboratory with compound microscopy, dissecting microscopy and all other utilities needed for the study of insects.
Much work is related to the order Hemiptera and much work is done on identification of scale insects, whiteflies, aphids and related insects of agricultural importance. Annual surveys are carried out for a number of insects pests according to E.U. directives. One of the most important annual surveys is that carried out for the Colorado Beetle. Malta is a protected zone for this important pest on potato plantations and thus Malta has to carry out this annual survey in order to prove that this pest is not locally present.
The Mycology Lab
This lab, also housed at the Agricultural Research Centre at Għammieri, is a fully equipped laboratory with compound and dissecting microscopy and facilities for fungal isolations. Currently there is no one employed on a full-time basis to cater for all diagnosis related to fungal and fungal-like plant pathogens. Apart from the routine analysis, which this laboratory caters for, this lab is also responsible for a number of annual surveys which are obligatory according to E.U. law. For instance these include tests for Tilezia indica on grain, Phytophora ramorum and others.
The Nematology Lab
This lab, which is housed at the Agricultural Research Centre at Għammieri, is still under construction but most of the basic nematology work in terms of extraction can readily be carried out. Extraction of nematodes from soil samples submitted to the laboratory is mainly done using different sized sieves. This laboratory is also in charge of delivering annual reports with respect to the Pine Wood Nematode, a survey which is obligatory according to E.U. directives.
The Bacteriology Lab
The lab is housed within the Diagnostic Lab at the Plant Biotechnology Centre in Lija. The Section runs annual surveys for quarantine bacteria affecting local agricultural crops. Testing methods used for diagnosis involves bacterial culture, immunoflorescence tests, molecular tests and inoculation onto indicator plants.
The Virology Lab
The lab is also housed within the Diagnostic Lab at Plant Biotechnology Centre. Annual surveys for quarantine viruses are run during which field visits for symptomatology are performed. Samples are tested by mechanical transmission/indexing onto herbaceous and woody indicators; and by laboratory analysis including serological and molecular tests.