Plant Analysis: A Reliable Decision-Making Tool

  Farmers and agronomists have been using plant analysis for the past few decades to identify fertility needs. Plant analysis allows producer to direct side dress or use pivot applications of crop nutrients precisely. Information gained from plant analysis is only as good as the sample itself. So, it’s important to remember these steps when you’re out in the field this month.

Step one: 

What part of the plant are we looking for? It is critical to take the correct leaf or grouping of leaves. This way, we can balance looking at both mobile and non-mobile plant nutrients. For example, if we take a soybean trifoliate that has not fully opened, nutrients are still being “pumped” to the new tissues. Full photosynthetic capacity may not be occurring yet. We are not accurately showing what might be going on in that soybean plant.

Step two: 

Where in the field are we sampling? We should collected multiple leaves to ensure our sample is statistically representative of the field or area of interest. As we move from sampling point to sampling point, we need to make sure that different planter and fertilizer application passes are represented. Avoiding field edges or turn rows is also critical.

Step three: 

When is the sample being taken? Ward Laboratories, INC. has good data for interpretation from seedling stages to beginning grain fill. As many of our corn and soybean fields begin to tassel or flower, it is important to remember that we still have 40 to 60 percent of nutrient uptake yet to occur, so sampling now will provide an excellent status report on our fertility and allow us to plan some late top-dress or pivot applications.


Originally Printed in the Ward Letter August 2019.

About the author

Originally from Wamego Kansas, Nick received his BS and MS in Agronomy from Kansas State University (KSU) in 2007 and 2010 respectively. His Masters work focused on P fertilizer placement and fertilizer enhancement products. In August of 2015, he completed his PhD at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focusing on active crop sensors for use in nitrogen management in irrigated environments. At Ward Labs, Nick focuses on day to day operations of the lab while working with a research team to explore new tests that would help farmers, ranchers or home owners. The most rewarding aspect of the job is working with customers to better understand and how to use their laboratory test results in making informed decisions. Nick is married with four children and enjoys coaching youth sports and sneaking in a round of golf when possible.

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