Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Don't Guess, Tissue Test

I always repeated what I was taught about "Don't Guess, Soil Test" and added "follow it up with a tissue test" over the years. Lots of farmers are posting and sending pictures of less than desirable looking crops this year. It's no wonder with the weather extremes we have experienced again this year.

The picture is of a field of a good farmer in Pennsylvania. He has weather, corn variety, pesticide and fertility issues all going on at the same time in this field and he is asking for help, trying to figure it all out. That is about impossible to do so we have to lay out the basics on each aspect. One is nutrient uptake, all affected by the weather, variety and chemical program in that field.

If you click on the picture and enlarge it you see a little purpling on the leaf edges. That is probably a lack of Phosphorous, especially noted in some hybrids. The yellow color in the leaves indicate a lack of perhaps N, K, Mg, S and micronutrients. Even if he did soil and tissue test and provided the nutrients the roots aren't big enough to take them in yet and it was probably cool and wet in this field which isn't conducive to good growth.

Here is what I said about tissue testing in another post. "I started tissue sampling in the 70's, more in the 80's. It almost always revealed imbalance in the Macro, Secondary and micro nutrients. My best crops usually comes from my most balanced fields but yes it often feels like a shot in the dark even with sampling and adjusting the nutrient program. What you learn this year is more helpful for next year than it probably is this year. Look at all the posts today and recently involving nutrient imbalance.

Start somewhere if you are interested but sample one plant per acre, per three or five acres minimum or the same place you take soil samples if you are able to do that. Start with your worst fields at the minimum. Do them all if you can but that might come later or never.

Get a lab to work with a follow their instructions. Our new crops are so small we would be using mainly whole plants clipped or gently ripped off(lol). Ask questions, especially on the results. Go back and do the same thing again at tassle on corn, top trifoliates at bean flower and compare results, the weather changed in the middle and indicates plant uptake differences with or without fertilizers. I use the complete test from Midwest and it costs $20 plus shipping the sample and that is a small charge compared to fertilizer or crop value. The labor is the hard part and why so many don't bother with it besides they don't see the usefulness in the information.

Use these results and some common sense in planning next year's fertilizer program which will start right now for me and definitely in my fall applications.

That's it in a nutshell for me and yes I feel it is worth the effort to do this.

Experienced consultants and labor are available if you can't handle the project yourself but I really think any farmer should do this themself to at least understand the basics whether or not they hire someone else to do it. It's a great way to pay an interested young person to gather samples and start learning the science of agronomy if you have children at home next door, in FFA or 4-H.

Good luck,


Crop Talk and the various Internet pages are a great help to the farmer but you can only glean enough information to perhaps understand some things and probably not change the color of that field much without good growing conditions. We really haven't had many good growing days in the Eastern Corn Belt this year.

Tissue test results can help me feed the young crop this year but will help in planning future crops even more.

It's a beautiful day with perfect weather for humans so I better get at it.


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