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Q. Can you give us insight on your academic background?
A. I received a Bachelor’s in Agricultural (Honors in Plant Protection) from Punjab Agricultural University, Punjab, India. The Punjab Agricultural University is Asia’s leading Agricultural University and is responsible for bringing the ‘Green Revolution’ in India. I then moved to United Kingdom and obtained a Master’s Degree in Crop Protection from University of Reading.
Q. What is your current profession?
A. I currently direct the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center’s Plant Diagnostic Center. Everybody here calls me ‘Plant Doctor’. I am an Assistant Professor of Plant Diagnostics and a State Plant Diagnostics Specialist. After being promoted to an Assistant Professor last year, I have become the first Tenure Track Assistant Professor in the United States with a Doctor of Plant Medicine degree.
Q. Can you tell us about your work?
When people get sick, they usually call their doctor. Louisiana residents and extension personnel can do the same thing when their plants get sick, thanks to the LSU AgCenter’s Plant Diagnostic Center. There, director of the center and “plant doctor” Raj Singh can examine samples and help with just about any plant health problem.
The center provides affordable, accurate and rapid diagnoses of plant health problems and offers solutions. Using plant samples that owners send or bring to the center, Singh can diagnose various issues caused by pathogens, insects, mites and nematodes.
Singh receives hundreds of samples per year from homeowners and extension agents as well as commercial vegetable growers, nurseries and turfgrass managers. Most samples are of ornamental plants, and the most common problem is diseases caused by fungi.
In addition to routine diagnostic services, the Plant Diagnostic Center conducts surveys for citrus insects and diseases, sudden oak death, sugarcane yellow leaf and ratoon stunting.
Singh said many issues, such as plants being planted too deep or having bad drainage, can be easily fixed. Other problems are more serious.
“If you have a tomato plant and it’s dying because of a soil-borne bacterial or fungal pathogen, you need to know that,” Singh said. “You can’t just plant another tomato plant in the same spot because the pathogen will still be in your soil.”
The process of submitting a sample for analysis depends on the plant and the problem. Most samples can be mailed, but sometimes it is better to bring the plant to the center. Other times, solutions can be identified by emailing photos to Singh.
Initial analysis of most samples costs $20. Professional turfgrass clients are charged $75. If further testing is needed, fees apply and vary depending on the problem.
Q. What previous involvement led to your present position?
A. I held an instructor position (2008-2013) and an extension associate position (2007-2008) with the LSU AgCenter. Prior to joining the LSU AgCenter, I held a Post-Doctoral Associate position (2005 -2007) in the Department of Entomology and Nematology at the University of Florida. I became a Plant Doctor in 2004.
Q. So what made you choose DPM?
A. I never wanted to focus on just one area related to plant health such as Plant Pathology or Entomology. I always wanted to do something different, but was never sure. Then I came to know about the DPM program and without any hesitation I called Dr. Agrios and the next thing I know, I was accepted to the program. Truly the intensity and the inter-disciplinary nature of the program attracted me to become a Plant Doctor.
Q. How do you feel your DPM degree has influenced you?
A. I love my career and it is because of the DPM program that I have been able to achieve so much in such a short time. The newly advanced Plant Diagnostic Center was known as Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. It is because of the DPM training and experience that I was able to convert the Clinic to the Plant Diagnostic Center and provide our clients a one-stop shopping for all their plant health problems. Every day, I work with something new and different. You never know what kind of plant sample will walk into the Center. I believe that DPM has provided me with the training and confidence to fulfill the mission of my program. Go DPM!