Q. What services do the Soil and Irrigation Water Laboratory provide?

 R. The services provided are the physico-chemical testing of soil and irrigation water to farmers and to the general public.  For further details please visit the Laboratory Services Unit section of our website.

Q. How can I submit a sample to the Laboratory?

 R. The samples are brought to the reception of the Soil and Irrigation Water Laboratory (Għammieri) between Monday and Friday from 7:00 to 15:30 (winter) and 7:00 to 13:00 (summer). In Gozo, samples can be handed in at the government farm in Xewkija. It is important that when samples are submitted, details of the person are forwarded to the Laboratory officials correctly, especially when one comes on behalf of another person. The details should include the name and surname of the person, address, ID number and the reference of the soil sample.

Q. How can I collect a soil sample?

R. A soil sample is collected from a depth ranging between 0 and 15cm. Various samples are collected in the form of a W from the field and placed into a bucket. The soil must then be thoroughly mixed to obtain one homogeneous sample that is representative of the field. About 1kg of the mixed soil sample is then placed into a clean plastic bag.

Q. How can I collect a water sample?

R. To avoid contamination always use a clean container or a container that has been rinsed with the water being collected before the actual sample is taken. A sample of at least 500ml is required.

Q. What type of diagnosis is made on water samples?

R. The Soil and Irrigation Water Laboratory carries out determination of soluble salts and much attention is given to diagnosis of salinity. This applies only for water meant for irrigation purposes. One can also benefit from a water classification according to salinity-related criteria. However, the response obtained from water having a given set of characteristics may vary greatly depending on the soil type, irrigation methods utilised and the weather conditions.

Soil Testing Results

The main aim of a soil testing at the Soil & Irrigation Water Testing Lab is to determine any deficiencies or nutrient excess in a particular soil.  Soil results are ultimately used to conduct fertiliser plans for a particular crop by advisory services bodies.  Soil testing through a careful soil sampling procedure (see FAQs – how can I collect a soil sample?) is essential for an accurate soil test result interpretation, which will result in a better environment for plant roots through more efficient fertilizer use.  Such a practice will ultimately increase yields, reduce costs and potentially reduce environmental pollution.  

Irrigation Water Results

The primary goal of an irrigation water testing is to judge the effect of the water being used on soil and on the crops grown on the soil.  Irrigation water testing at the Soil & Irrigation Water Lab is thus primarily based on salinity.  As a general rule different crops have different salt tolerances and thus a careful irrigation water analysis can avoid salinity hazards both on crops and also soil structure.   



Q. Where can I test cereal seed for purity in relation to the Agri-Environmental Measure 3: Low Input Farming?

R. The Seed Laboratory provides the service of analysing cereal and fodder plant seeds for purity and issuing a seed purity report against a 10 Euro fee for registered farmers and sellers. This service is related with the Agri-Environmental Measure 3: Low input farming of the Rural Development Programme. A letter is sent to all registered farmers every year from the Agriculture and Rural Payments Agency on this matter.  Seed samples for purity testing should be brought to the Soil and Irrigation Water Laboratory (Għammieri) between Monday and Friday from 7:00 to 15:30 (winter) and 7:00 to 13:00 (summer).

Q. How can I take a seed sample to be tested for purity for Agri-Environmental Measure 3: Low Input Farming?

R. In order to obtain a realistic result of the purity of wheat, barley or sulla, the person taking a sample must bring an average of 1 Kilogram of seed which must be taken from different parts of the whole lot. In this case, the farmer taking the sample must take at least 5 small samples from different parts of the lot and mix them in one container to form an average of 1 Kilogram of sample. Only by carrying out this procedure, the Seed Laboratory will be able to analyse the seeds and issue a purity test report with the percentage of pure seeds, the percentage of weed seeds and the percentage of inert material.



Q. Which services do the Diagnostic Laboratories provide?

R. The Plant Health Diagnostic Laboratories provide the service of testing of samples for the Surveillance and Enforcement Unit as part of the annual surveys conducted by the Plant Protection Directorate. These also include samples collected during inspections of imported consignments and samples from the general public with various queries relating to plant disease problems. 

Q. How can I submit a sample to the Laboratory?

R. Samples from the general public should be submitted via the Surveillance and Enforcement Unit by calling in person at the Plant Protection Directorate, Plant Biotechnology Centre in Lija. One can also contact the Surveillance and Enforcement Unit directly by phone and request for an inspection on site. 

Q. How should you collect a diseased plant sample?

R. In general, it is always advisable to collect affected plant parts in the margin between the infected plant tissue and the non-infected plant tissue. Dead plant tissues consisting mainly of dry and dead samples should be avoided, as these are not suitable for testing. The main type of sample collected for testing includes twigs with leaves, fruit and stem segments (wood material). In some cases one might be requested to deliver a soil sample in the case of soil nematodes.

Q. How should I store the sample until delivery?

R. Always store the sample in a clean plastic container or bag, and keep away from direct sunlight until it is delivered at the premises of the Plant Protection Directorate at Lija.  If the sample cannot be delivered on the same day of collection it is advisable that it is stored in a refrigerator, with a moist tissue paper inserted in the container to preserve humidity. In the case of insect specimens, it is advisable that they are forwarded as soon as possible especially in the case of larvae.

Q. For which type of pests/organisms are the samples tested?

R. The tests conducted at the Diagnostic Laboratories include:

  • Pepino Mosaic Virus, Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus on tomato samples. 
  • Ralstonia solanacearum & Clavibacter michiganensis ssp. sepedonicus on Potato and Tomato samples including other host plants.
  • Citrus Tristeza Virus on samples of citrus trees.
  • Pinewood Nematode on samples of pine trees and wood packaging material.
  • Potato Cyst Nematodes on samples of soil.
  • Xylella fastidiosa on samples of olive twigs, stone fruit and other host plants.
  • Phytophtora ramorum on samples of various species including Holm Oak and other ornamentals.
  • Giberella circinata on samples of pine trees.
  • Other testing

We also offer the services of general testing for fungi and general identification of insects. This case holds when there is no clear indication of what the causal agent might be.

Q. Which types of testing methods are employed by the Diagnostic Laboratories?

R. These include ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunsorbent Assay) for bacteria and fungi, IF test (Immunofluorescence assay) for Ralstonia solanacearum & Clavibacter michiganensis ssp. sepedonicus,   Immunoprinting tissue-print ELISA for Citrus Tristeza Virus, Semi-selective isolation of bacteria, general fungal cultures for the isolation of fungi, PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) for confirmatory testing.  The laboratory also contracts some work to other institutions and/or experts, both locally and abroad.



Q. What does the Surveillance and Enforcement Unit do?

 R. The SEU is responsible for conducting annual surveys to determine the absence of certain harmful pests and diseases, to ensure that immediate action and control is performed when necessary. The outcome of these surveys is reported to the European Union Commission.

 Q. Where are the inspections carried out?

 R. The inspections are carried out at trade, in open fields, greenhouses, public and private areas and forestry sites.

Q. Why are various traps found in public areas?

 R. These traps, in the form of red buckets or black funnels are pheromone traps used for the monitoring of insect pests harmful to trees. These are not harmful or dangerous to humans, birds or animals but however must not be removed from their location.

Q. What can I report to the Surveillance and Enforcement Unit?

 R. SEU can be contacted in cases where crops and plants may be infected with pests and diseases, mainly concerning regulated and quarantine pests.

Q. How can a report be made?

 R. A client may report via e-mail through plantprotection.mesdc@gov.mt or by freephone on 8007 2310. Alternatively, a sample can be brought to the Plant Protection premises in person.

Q. What actions will be taken by SEU once a report has been made?

 R. SEU may provide immediate advice if possible either by phone, e-mail or in person or officers may also conduct an on-site inspection for further investigation.

Common queries received which is not the responsibility of SEU:

  • Permits to uproot trees
  • Pesticide residue analysis
  • Pesticide application
  • Gardening services
  • Household insects not affecting plants
  • Removal of bee or wasp hives



Q. What inspections and visits are done by the Seeds and other Propagation Material Unit?

 R. As a way to monitor the market of propagation material in the Maltese territory with the aim of having available in circulation high quality propagation and planting material, the Seeds and other Propagation Material Unit carries out annual inspections and follow-ups (if deemed necessary) to  entities registered with the Plant Protection Directorate. Also, field visits are performed mainly on local seeds production. 

Q. What are the rules regarding imports of plant material from non-EU countries?  

 R. Seeds of cereals, fodder plants and vegetables species that originate from non-EU countries (third countries) can be marketed in the European Union as long as:

  • The varieties are registered in the EU Common Catalogue of Varieties:  
  • The seeds have appropriate labels including the variety, species and category;
  • A third country notification form is filled by the importer and sent to the Directorate; and 
  • A Notification form is filled by the importer and given to the Directorate in case of a single batch of seeds of the same variety weighing more than two kilograms. 
  • These rules apply for vegetable seedlings except the presentation of the two kilogram notification.