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Photo by Lea Kimley.

A new approach to tissue sampling

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

Throughout the 2018 growing season, AgriGold agronomist John Brien has been working with farmers to do something a little unorthodox. He is having producers send in tissue samples on a weekly basis.

“Traditionally, tissue sampling has a negative tone to it because no one has been able to correlate that if you have this certain level of something at this certain time, you’re going to get this certain yield, so many academia and agronomists have come to the conclusion that tissue sampling is not important,” Brien said. “But we have taken a different approach and we are systematically tissue sampling, once every week so we can get trend lines. I’m not worried about spikes or valleys. I am worried about the general trend of nutrients in that plant.”

The end goal, according to Brien, is to see if growers are getting enough nutrients to the plant at any given point of the season or if there are big holes somewhere that need to be addressed to fix the production system, offering a different mindset to see what this type of tissue sampling can offer. One discovery this project has made is that some nutrients are being used by the crop at some points in the growing season and some are not, meaning some applications may be a waste of time and money.

“We always assume that if we put a nutrient out there that the plant is using it,” Brien said. “We have done studies and trials with these tissue samples where we applied nutrients at different times and the plant never took them up. It was too late for that plant to use it so the farmer wasted a large amount of money.”

Take potassium, for instance.

“We noticed that if you don’t have potassium in the plant by V5 or V6, there is no way to drive the nutrient levels back up because you are on a downward trend and corn is using that nutrient up very rapidly right up to pollination,” Brien said. “If you wait until V10 or V11, you’re just putting potassium on for next year’s crop and that opened our eyes to realize that we have to have potassium on early and in big amounts.”

It is standard procedure to put manganese on soybeans after seeing some yellowing after a Roundup application, but tissue samples from this project are coming back deficient or low on manganese.

Brien is also noticing lower than expected levels of boron when tissue results return. He wonders if there is some low lying fruit with these two nutrients that can be useful for higher yields in the future.

Sending in a tissue sample weekly will likely sound extreme for most producers, but Brien says doing it a little more often may be advantageous.

“I think of tissue sample as just another agronomic tool,” Brien said. “So, if you are at your wit’s end on management and you just can’t figure out how to get to the next level, additional tissue sampling should come into play. If once a week is too much, try every other week. If you are really dedicated and want to spend more time with tissue sampling, that tells me you are serious about raising good crops.”

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