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The Benefits of Soil and Tissue Sampling

When farmers think of managing crops, soil and tissue sampling is not always front-of-mind as a regular practice. Throughout the summer of 2022, Southern States interns collected soil and tissue samples bi-weekly for one farmer whose crops include corn, soybeans, wheat, sorghum, and sunflowers - among others. This project placed a particular focus on corn and soybean fields.

There are many benefits to soil and tissue sampling:

  • Identify deficiencies in the soil
  • Determine pH and its effect on nutrient take up
  • Understand how the tissue acquires nutrients compared to soil composition
  • Identify diseases that could be affecting the tissue
  • Determine if a plant has stunted root development

Observations from tissue and soil analysis:

  • Different areas of the field take up varying levels of nutrients into the tissue
  • A few consistent nutrient issues across a field
  • Sporadic major nutrient deficiencies in one part of the field
  • Low pH won’t allow the plant to take up most nutrients
  • Lack of rain affects how tissue takes nutrients up from the soil

When tissue sampling is completed, present issues are identified and a nutrient management plan can be formulated specifically for these fields. Utilizing Precision Ag technology is a beneficial next step to obtain more even yields throughout the field. Precision Ag technology has the capability to analyze the soil based on historic field use and previous issues to identify areas that may need more nutrients than others. It is also capable of using variable-rate distribution methods to spread more of a nutrient in the part of the field that needs it, and less in the parts of the field that don’t need that particular nutrient. This is a cost-effective way to manage the amount of nutrient being supplied, which would aid in increasing the yield, providing farmers with a higher profit return. Whatever one may choose, continual and consistent soil and tissue sampling is beneficial to the grower.

Written by Lexi Warren, Southern States Agronomy Intern and rising Senior at Virginia Tech in Biological Systems Engineering and Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences.