An extraction technique for reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) detection of plant pathogens including viruses, bacteria and phytoplasma is described. The total nucleic acid of these plant pathogens was obtained by direct spotting of crude sap derived from infected leaf, petiole or cambial tissue onto two different types of membranes, positively charged Hybond N(+) Nylon and FTA membranes, and processed for use in PCR. Thirteen different plant viruses, Xylella fastidiosa (causal agent of Pierce's disease) and phytoplasmas were included in the experiment. A thermal treatment (95 degrees C for 10 min) of the Hybond N(+) Nylon discs in a buffered solution improved the detection, but for FTA membrane discs the thermal treatment was not required and the discs were directly placed in the PCR reaction cocktail. Specific amplification of genomic or ribosomal RNA fragments of these pathogens was obtained by one-step RT-PCR except for X. fastidiosa in which a fragment of the genomic DNA was used for amplification. The same sample preparation methods also worked well for real-time RT-PCR (TaqMan). The sample preparation techniques reported here could be used to store samples for future PCR test or for long distance shipment to a detection laboratory.