Plant analysis can be a useful tool for troubleshooting plant nutrition related crop production problems during the growing season. From a troubleshooting standpoint, plant analysis can confirm visual symptomology of nutrient deficiencies or toxicities, reveal early stages of nutrient deficiencies, and determine the availability of nutrients for which a reliable soil test does not exist or soil test calibration has not been completed. Plant analysis can also be used to assess a crop’s response to applied nutrients, particularly where different treatments may have been applied in the same field (e.g., strips with and without sulfur addition).
Over the past several years, agronomists have become increasingly interested in using plant analysis to help troubleshoot problem fields or identify slight nutrient deficiencies that might hinder a producer from achieving high yields. This is evidenced by the fact that plant samples submitted to the UW Soil & Plant Analysis Lab doubled each year since 2007 (Table 1). While plant analysis sample submission has increased, the number of soil samples submitted in conjunction with plant samples has remained relatively steady since 2005. An analysis of some of the plant analysis data since 2005 revealed that plant analysis may not be well understood by some agronomists. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to describe the use and limitations of plant analysis for troubleshooting fields.