Extracting Data with Plant Tissue Testing by Dr. Josh Henry
Plant tissue testing is a great way to get a snapshot of plant health throughout the growing season. Annual soil testing provides a baseline of nutrient availability to help you build a nutrient management program, but tissue testing helps you make nutrient management decisions in-season. As weather and other factors affect growth throughout the season, tissue samples can provide information on what the plant needs nutritionally at any time. Monitoring trends in foliar nutrient values over time also allows you to make changes in your fertility program as needed.
There are a number of factors to consider when collecting foliar tissue samples. Samples should always be collected from actively growing but fully expanded leaves. If visible nutrient deficiency symptoms are observed, it is often beneficial to take two samples which consist of leaves from healthy plants and leaves from symptomatic plants, respectively. Doing this will allow you to compare nutrient values and determine which nutrients are deficient or in excess. When collecting turfgrass samples, mow using clean blades and a clean basket and make sure the turf has not had any fertilizer or foliar sprays applied in the past 5 to 7 days before collection.
In general, leaves selected for tissue nutrient analysis should be free of pests, diseases and unnecessary mechanical damage, and most importantly, they should be clean! Tissue samples contaminated with dust, soil and especially chemicals and nutrients applied via spray applications can easily alter your analysis, leaving you with inaccurate results. Dead and dying tissue as well as tissue from edge or border plants should also be excluded from analysis. It is also important not to mix leaves from different crops or turf, even of the same species, as nutrient content is highly dependent on plant maturity.
While many universities and private labs offer plant tissue testing, not all provide specific reference values for a particular species or product recommendations to provide solutions. Helena’s advanced tissue analysis system, Extractor®, provides user-friendly reports with additional benefits like graphing nutrient trends over time, saving historical nutrient values, and developing nutrient distribution maps based on geo-referenced tissue samples. Furthermore, your local Helena Sales Representative or one of our Rx360® Specialists will collect and submit your samples for you.
Extractor offers a number of benefits compared to generic tissue testing. The generated reports are color-coded and easier to interpret than reports straight from the lab. One of the major benefits of using Extractor is that all of the data is saved in our AI360® software. Having the data saved allows us to compare new tests with historical tissue analysis data, and we can even generate reports and trend charts to demonstrate changes in nutrition over time. Furthermore, when we take the tissue samples in the field, we can geo-reference the exact points where samples were collected. Additionally, Extractor provides product recommendations for nutrients not within sufficiency ranges.
To learn more about Rx360 or Extractor, contact your local Helena representative or visit helenaprofessional.com.