Discover the Value of Multiple Tissue Tests

Posted in: Farming     

The information gathered during regular tissue testing goes a long way to helping growers determine how to make their crops flourish. However, once is rarely enough, say experts.
Tim Eyrich, Director of Agronomy Services with Agri-Trend Inc.’s Knowledge Team, says, “I think tissue tests are one of the best tools a farmer has to check up on their crops. It tells them whether the crop is accessing the nutrients, whether deficiencies are showing up and maybe more importantly, whether my fertility plan is working or do I need to adjust for next year.”

However, just one tissue test will likely confuse more than clarify the situation. “This is my 37th year of looking at tissue samples,” says Eyrich. “Every year at least one grower will say to me, ‘I’m not going to do four so if I just do one tissue test, when should I pull it?’ My answer is, don’t bother taking one sample from all your fields; choose a couple of fields and pull four tissues over the growing season. That is a much smarter plan and better use of your analytical budget.”

One tissue test taken on one day out of a 120-day growing season gives you a snapshot of how that plant reacted to its environment just prior to the sampling. “If the tissue sample shows some nutrients are deficient, I have no idea how long that has been the case because there’s no baseline.”
Also, choosing when to take just one sample is tricky. Taken too late in the season and it leaves little time to implement solutions, and taken too early won’t catch problems faced as a plant puts on most of its biomass and yield.
Plants require nutrients in different amounts at each growth stage. This is why Eyrich recommends farmers or their crop consultants take three or ideally four samples throughout the growing season:

-Early vegetative state
-During rapid biomass accumulation
-Right before pollination
-At maturation

“Multiple tissue samples taken right before those critical growth stages gives me a better look the plant’s ability to acquire nutrients within any given environment,” says Eyrich. “I like to use the analogy of a puzzle. One tissue analysis equals one puzzle piece — alone its difficult to see the big picture but when you add it to the other tissue samples and soil analysis, now the whole thing comes into focus.”
Growers benefit from knowing if there are any weak points in their fertility programs, and consultants benefit from having evidence to show if their recommendations were on track.
Currently, the majority of the tissue tests are taken on higher value crops but in this economy, it’s even more important to make sure every fertilizer dollar spent is doing its job, notes Eyrich, and that money is not being spent on the wrong ingredients.

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