The leaf on a plant might not be the first thing that comes to mind when looking to examine nutrients. It turns out though, that leaves hold a key of wealth on plant health. The September 8th Sustainable, Secure Food Blog explains how leaf tissue nutrient tests can help farmers decide how to best care for their fields.
Plants obtain most of their nutrition from the soil. A leaf tissue test shows how much of those nutrients the plant can retrieve. Tissue nutrient analysis can help farmers determine if their plants are hungry, or getting their nutritional needs met. Other benefits of tissue nutrient analysis include troubleshooting and diagnosing plants that are not growing ideally, determining what kinds and how much fertilizer to add, and being able to correct nutrient deficiencies relatively quickly.
A leaf tissue test shows how much of those nutrients the plant can retrieve. When a tissue nutrient analysis indicates that the plants are low in a certain nutrient like magnesium, the farmer knows to supplement the plants' magnesium. By diligently sampling every year, they can monitor how the plants and that field are doing over time. If some of their plants look different – weird colors on their leaves or stunted growth – they can sample those and compare them to healthier-looking plants to hopefully diagnose the issue.
Blogger Jaclyn Fiola explains that, ideally, tissue analysis should be used in conjunction with other methods of checking if plants' nutrient needs are being met. Farmers can do a soil analysis and check for visual symptoms of nutrient deficiencies. The most effective nutrient program is one informed by both soil and tissue analyses. Tissue nutrient analysis is a nifty tool for both checking on your plants and for monitoring a field over many years.