Whether monitoring fields from the ground or from up above, you’re bound to find a handful of problem areas that have you stumped. A plant analysis can be a useful diagnostic tool. And in many regions, the window to gather samples is open.

Plant tissue analysis can be an extremely useful tool. It is unique from other crop diagnostic tests in that it gives an overall picture of the nutrient levels within the plant at the time the sample was taken. It allows monitoring the nutrient adequacy in plants and helps identify nutrient deficiencies and imbalances.1 It also can confirm toxicities, identify “hidden hunger,” help evaluate fertilizer programs, study nutrient interactions and determine the availability of elements for which reliable soil tests have not been developed.2

Plant analysis is different from tissue testing in that it is a quantitative laboratory analysis. Tissue testing refers to semiquantitative, quick tests of plant sap carried out in the field for trouble-shooting purposes.2

Quality control — critical to success

It’s important to follow correct sampling techniques. This handy guide from the University of Wisconsin Soil and Forage Lab will help direct success. Be sure to sample at the recommended growth stage and from the part of the plant as directed by your testing lab. For example, plan to sample corn before tasseling or from tassel to silking. For soybeans, it’s prior to or at initial flower development. Errors or carelessness in selection, collection, handling, preparing or shipping plant tissue for analysis can result in unreliable data. Here are some additional considerations:
  • Avoid sampling plants obviously stressed from causes other than nutrients, such as disease or insects.
  • Sample normal and abnormal plants from different parts of the field.
  • Include a soil sample, which can be useful for correlating with plant analysis results to pinpoint a nutrient problem.

What to expect

Typically, the plant analysis report will show the concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, zinc, manganese, boron, copper, iron, aluminum and sodium. Some labs provide detailed interpretation, including fertilizer recommendations. Others report only the results, so you can work with your agronomist or crop consultant to develop solutions specific to your operation. Whether those changes include in-crop or between-crop adjustments, your Case IH dealer can offer nutrient-delivery options that get the job done in a timely, efficient manner.

So, if you’re looking to resolve problem spots in your fields this season, consider a plant analysis. Start by contacting your state’s land-grant university or a private testing lab. Properly done, that analysis can point the way toward more efficient use of fertilizer investments.2 And that can improve your bottom line for years to come.


RESOURCES
1Iowa State University Department of Agronomy website. http://soiltesting.agron.iastate.edu/analyses/Plant.html. Accessed July 5, 2017.

2Schulte EE, Kelling KA. Plant Analysis: A Diagnostic Tool. National Corn Handbook, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service website. https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/NCH/NCH-46.html. Accessed July 5, 2017.