tissue testing

Tapping into the benefits of tissue testing

Managing fertility in crop production is not the easiest thing to do. Nobody holds all the pieces of the puzzle. Many times, we are left to play with the pieces left behind after nature has done playing, and our success often depends on how well we play those pieces. When tissue testing was discovered more than 50 years ago, we were graciously handed a prized piece of the fertility puzzle.

The presence of nutrients in the soil is not a guarantee that the nutrient is entering the plant. Several factors such as drought conditions, soil compaction and nutrient fixation may mean that plants are unable to effectively absorb soil nutrients even when those nutrients are there. Only the nutrient that enters the plant is useful in nourishing the crop. Testing plant tissues is the way to know whether or not the plant is absorbing nutrients.

What can tissue testing do for you?

For starters, it takes away the guesswork. Deficiency symptoms of nutrients may look alike and are not always easy to distinguish. Besides, other factors such as frost, water stress, chemical injury or insect damage may present similar symptoms as nutrient deficiencies. Knowing exactly what the problem is can save you a lot of money that would have been spent treating the wrong ailment. Moreover, tissue testing can let you know what remedial actions are needed this season. If deficiencies are determined early, there may still be time to make corrections and avoid substantial yield reduction. Furthermore, results from tissue testing can help you modify plans for next season to ensure that the fertilizer applied at the beginning of the season is adequate to meet crop requirements.

The issue with tissue

It should be noted that tissue analysis shows which nutrients the plant is utilizing at a particular point in time. The underlying principle of tissue testing is that measured levels are compared with standards that have been determined from rigorous experiments that link nutrient contents in tissues of specific plants at different stages of growth with parameters such as final yield and quality. Therefore, it is important that the correct plant part is sampled at the correct growth stage to make results meaningful. For this reason, it is absolutely crucial to follow the guidelines set by the tissue testing laboratory that you plan to use. Your local SynergyAG agronomist can help with tissue sampling as well as interpretation of results.

-Ikenna Mbakwe, PhD, PAg
Head of Research

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