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The Importance of Tissue Sampling for Plant Health

Revealing results from a simple test

In recent years, tissue sampling has become more important than ever for growers looking to hit higher yield goals. Taking a tissue sample allows a grower to diagnose problems not always visible to the naked eye, providing an opportunity to take action before the problem affects the plant. Combined with a soil test, proper tissue sampling and testing can help you reach your highest yield yet.

What sampling can tell us

A tissue sample analysis will provide you with nutrient levels of the plant. Brett Reese, agronomist with Southern States, explains that the results are a snapshot of where you are at a certain period of time. "The question you should ask yourself is whether you have enough nutrients to get to the next stage of development," Reese says.

By comparing the tissue sample results to the soil test results done earlier in the year, you can see what changes have occurred in the soil and, if necessary, what nutrients need supplementing. "Certain nutrients are more soluble than others, so sampling can help in those situations," Reese adds.

Comparing tissue and soil test results can also reveal compaction issues. For instance, if you took a 6-inch soil sample and all looked well, but the tissue sample came back low in micronutrients, compaction of the topsoil layer could be preventing those micronutrients from getting to the plant. Note: this occurs more commonly in clay soils than in sandy soils.

Tissue sampling can also reveal problems with roots. Some soilborne pests feed on roots, weakening their ability to provide nutrients to the plant. In addition, certain diseases will attack the roots and stem underground. In these cases, tissue sample results can uncover a hidden problem.

How to use your results

While tissue sampling can reveal much, it should still be considered a piece of the puzzle rather than the whole solution. "Sampling tells you where to start looking to find out the reason why something is happening," Reese says.

Because many symptoms of distress look the same, it is important to diagnose the right problem before any treatment. For instance, deficiencies of magnesium, sulfur, and zinc, along with lack of sunlight, all visibly appear the same. Without testing to determine the precise cause, you could waste time and money on solving the wrong problem.

Overall, tissue sampling can help steer you in the right direction so that your yield goal is reached and your harvest is a success. For more information on tissue sampling, consult your local Southern States professional.

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