By Darren Hefty
That’s what I get when I have solid data to make decisions with. I’m certain I’m doing the right thing for my farm. It’s with full confidence I can recommend you to begin a tissue testing program for your farm, regardless of farm size. Here’s why.
Why Tissue Test
I call plant tissue tests the “report card for the farmer.” It’s a measurement of which nutrients actually got into your plants this year. While soil tests are important and a great foundation for your nutrient management program, they can’t tell you what the plant was able to make use of during the season. Visual field observations won’t reveal nutrient deficiencies or imbalances until it’s already too late to fix. A complete test for all primary, secondary, and micronutrients is important to request.
How You Pull Tests
Choose one to three spots in a field this year and commit to pulling tissue samples once per week for an 8 to 12 week time frame during the growing season. If you do 2 or 3 spots, I’d recommend picking an average yielding spot and comparing it to a top yielding spot and/or a poor yielding spot. Here are a couple helpful pictures from Midwest Labs showing how to do it:
Once you have the samples, wash them with distilled water and send them to the lab in a paper bag or the sample bag provided by the lab.
For more information on these or other crops, read this sampling guide.
How To Make Money With This
Tissue tests are cheap ($20) and easy (5-10 minutes) to do. Here are some of the key results you should receive:
- Improve profits and yields
- Save money on fertilizer
- Learn yield-limiting factors
- See why high yielding areas are successful
- Find out what will fix poor areas
- Learn your fields well
- Find out if what you’re doing is actually paying
- See if nutrient applications/formulations are actually getting into the crop and how quickly they are getting into the crop