Send a sample for laboratory testing

The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory provides laboratory testing for pests and diseases of plants and identification of suspected exotic or invasive weeds. Find out how to send us a sample for testing.

Reporting a biosecurity risk?

If you have found a pest, disease, or weed that you think is a biosecurity risk, call the MPI Exotic Pest and Disease Hotline. Do not submit these samples without calling the hotline first.

  • Phone 0800 80 99 66

Follow the steps to send a sample

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Step 1: Check what tests we offer

We test these sample types:

  • Samples with suspected exotic pests or diseases, or suspected exotic/invasive weeds that are submitted by the general public, growers, consultants, or the scientific community (general surveillance samples).
  • Samples with suspected exotic pests and/or diseases sent from New Zealand border clearance.
  • Plant samples collected and submitted from routine plant inspections in post-entry quarantine.
  • Samples from plants growing in post-entry quarantine that need mandatory testing as part of import health standard requirements.
  • Seeds being imported into New Zealand that must be free of harmful pests and diseases for border clearance.
  • Mushroom spawn, cultures and truffles being imported for growing to make sure they meet the requirements of the import permit.
  • Plants to be exported from New Zealand that require certification that they are free of harmful pests and diseases.
  • Samples from New Zealand growers or industry groups wanting assurance that their plant material is free from harmful pests and diseases (for example for high health schemes – industry programmes to make sure plant material is healthy).
  • Samples from national surveillance programs (such as for fruit fly, exotic ants, bee pests, and potato wart disease).
  • Samples from investigations and responses to exotic organisms that have been detected in New Zealand.
Step 2: Provide sample details

Complete the PHEL Sample submission details. Provide as much information as possible to help us identify your sample. Ensure this is kept separated from the sample to keep it clean and dry.

PHEL sample submission details form [PDF, 237 KB]

Step 3: Prepare your sample

Follow the steps for your sample type.

Samples for export and domestic (such as high health) testing and imported seeds

Contact PHEL first to discuss sample submission requirements. Preparation varies depending on plant species and the purpose of testing.

Insects and other invertebrates that are harmless to humans (including spiders and mites)

  1. Place sample in an unbreakable container (such as film canister, jar lid covered with card and cling wrap, plastic pill bottle) and tape closed.
  2. Put the container inside a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Label bags or containers with a brief sample description.
  4. Place in transport bag or box with a completed Sample submission details form.

Plant samples with suspected insect damage

  1. Seal plants or plant parts in a plastic bag and place this inside a second sealed plastic bag.
  2. Label bags with brief sample description.
  3. Place in transport bag or box with completed Sample submission details form.

Plant samples with a suspect fungal or bacterial disease, or nematodes (whole plant or plant parts)

  1. Send fresh (not dead) material from as much of the plant as possible. Include different stages of the disease, especially material with recently developed symptoms.
  2. Include material (such as flowers and fruit) that helps to identify the host plant.
  3. Place plant material in a sealed plastic bag and place this inside a second sealed plastic bag.
  4. Ensure excess water or moisture is removed prior to bagging.
  5. Keep samples cool and away from direct sunlight.
  6. Label bags with brief sample description.
  7. Place in transport bag or box with completed Sample submission details form.

Plant samples with a suspect fungal or bacterial disease, or nematodes (roots and/or soil)

  1. Send as much of the root as possible. If possible, tie a plastic bag around roots and stem base of plant and place in a second sealed plastic bag.
  2. Remove the top layer of plant debris and collect a sample of up to 1 litre of soil from different places around the affected plant.
  3. Place soil in a sealed plastic bag and place this in a second sealed plastic bag.
  4. Keep sample cool and away from direct sunlight.
  5. Label bags with brief sample description.
  6. Place in transport bag or box with completed Sample submission details form.

Plant samples with suspect viruses, viroids or phytoplasmas

  1. Collect as much of the plant as possible including a sample of the youngest shoots or growing tips and a sample of older leaves.
  2. Place plant material in a sealed plastic bag and place this inside a second sealed plastic bag.
  3. Ensure excess water or moisture is removed prior to bagging.
  4. Label bags with brief sample description.
  5. Place in transport bag or box with completed Sample submission details form.
  6. If possible, keep the sample cool during transport but do not freeze.
Step 4: Send the sample

Send the sample by mail for non-perishable material or by courier for perishable material to either the Auckland laboratory (all sample types) or Christchurch laboratory (invertebrate samples only).

  North Island South Island
Mail Freepost 120201
MPI PHEL
PO Box 2095
Auckland 1140
Freepost 120201
MPI PHEL
PO Box 14018
Christchurch 8544
Courier Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (MPI)
231 Morrin Road
St Johns
Auckland 1072
Plant Health and Environment Laboratory (MPI)
14 Sir William Pickering Drive
Burnside
Christchurch 8544

Test turnaround times

Completion times for surveillance samples, post-entry quarantine (general diagnostics) and border clearance samples depend on the type of test.

Table showing testing timeframes

Laboratory test

Urgent sample

Routine sample

Bacterial and fungal

Within 7 working days

Within 15 working days

Plant

Within 10 working days

Within 15 working days

Insect and invertebrate

Within 1 working day

Within 10 working days

Nematode

Within 7 working days

Within 15 working days

Viral

Within 7 working days

Within 30 working days

Other testing timeframes

  • Post-entry quarantine testing (mandatory testing based on import health standard requirements) is completed in 15 working days for bacterial, fungal, and viral testing. Testing takes 25 days if herbaceous indexing testing is also required for virus testing.
  • Export certification and high health testing are generally completed within 10 working days for bacterial, fungal, and viral testing.

Note: When an identification cannot be completed within the agreed reporting timeframe, an interim reply will be issued.

How we charge

You will be invoiced when testing is complete.

Accreditation

The Plant Health and Environment Laboratory is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025 'General Requirements for the Competence of Calibration and Testing Laboratories'.

Who to contact

If you have questions about sending a sample or tests we offer:

  • phone 0800 00 83 33 – ask for the Plant Health and Environment Laboratory
  • email info@mpi.govt.nz (for general enquiries)

North Island (Auckland)

South Island (Christchurch)

If you want to report a suspected exotic pest or disease:

  • phone 0800 80 99 66.
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