Plant Analysis (Planning vs. Post Mortem)

Plant analysis is a very useful tool for identifying nutrient deficiencies if used correctly. One problem many dealers have with plant analysis is that they try to use plant analysis as a post mortem. Plant analysis cannot identify the nutrient or nutrients causing a problem if the plants aren’t tested until they are almost dead!

Plant analysis is best used as part of a planned information cycle. This information cycle should look something like this: Soil testing in the fall or spring, plant analysis in the early vegetative stage and plant analysis in the reproductive stage. For crops such as potatoes under irrigation, a much more intense use of plant analysis on a weekly/biweekly basis is recommended.

Plant analysis during the early vegetative stages of growth can be useful in several ways. Early plant analysis can help detect deficiencies before visible symptoms appear. It may allow time for correction of some nutrient deficiencies, such as nitrogen in corn or zinc deficiency in edible beans. Early plant analysis can also confirm if the fertilizer placement and timing need to be modified.

Plant analysis, when the plant is in the reproductive stage, can also provide valuable information. During the reproductive stage, plants are generally removing nutrients from the soil at the highest rate during their life cycle. If a nutrient is found to be deficient at this stage of growth, either the rate of fertilizer applied was not sufficient, or nitrogen and other mobile nutrients may have been lost.

One example where plant analysis is used on a very regular basis is irrigated potato production. A plant sample every week gives information to the dealer or consultant on a regular basis. This provides an opportunity to become familiar with interpreting data as the crop progresses. It also supplies the dealer or consultant with much more information with which to make fertilization decisions.

Planning is a very important part of using plant analysis. Allowing yourself enough time to collect the samples, have them analyzed and receive the information is critical. AGVISE Laboratories provides three ways to receive plant analysis reports.

  1. “AGVISOR” – (a telephone link to your computer!)
  2. FAX
  3. 1st class mail

AGVISE Laboratories provides all plant analysis shipping bags and boxes at no charge. Please give us a call if you need sampling supplies or additional information about plant analysis.