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  • Writer's pictureAlexa Campbell

Soil Testing vs. Plant Tissue Analysis: Which is Essential for Plant Success?

As a grower, you work hard to grow strong, healthy plants. Understanding the nutritional needs of your soil and plants is essential to achieving this goal and optimizing your yield. Soil testing and plant tissue analysis are two powerful tools at your disposal. But which one is best? Or should we be doing both? In this blog, we will examine the differences between the two approaches and consider the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Soil Testing

Soil testing involves analyzing the physical and chemical properties of your soil to provide insight into the soil’s nutrient content, PH level, organic matter and other critical elements affecting plant growth in the soil. Your plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients and the ability of those nutrients to be utilized by the soil are influenced by these factors. The main purpose of soil testing is to provide a point of reference for the soil’s fertility levels so that you can effectively plan your fertilization programs. Soil tests can be taken at any point in time but are typically taken at the same time year-to-year, at the beginning of the growing season, to determine the available nutrient pool and if any action is needed to improve the conditions.

Benefits of Soil Testing:

  • Offers an overall assessment of soil health and fertility.

  • Provides insight into the PH and nutrient levels of the soil.

  • Helps identify amendments needed for the best plant growth and increased yield.

  • Aids in long-term planning for soil management.

Challenges of Soil Testing:

  • Usually only takes into consideration the nutrients present in the top 4-6 inches of soil.

  • Provides the soil conditions of a sample area, but results can vary across the field.

  • Does not provide real-time information on plant nutrient uptake.

Plant Tissue Analysis

While soil testing offers insights into the soil’s nutrient content, plant tissue analysis seeks to determine the actual nutrient levels within the plants themselves. A tissue analysis is the only way to find out how much your plants are actually absorbing. For instance, even though your soil may be rich in nutrients, imbalances in your plant may make it difficult for them to source what it needs, when it needs it. As a result, your crop may not be as healthy or resilient as you expect. Being able to track and monitor the nutrient uptake of your plants allows you to identify any deficiencies or imbalances and take corrective measures promptly. Plant tissue analysis gives you very specific real-time information on your plant’s nutrient levels so that you can customize fertilizer applications to fit the unique needs of your crops. This leads to optimal fertilizer use. Tissue analysis is typically done at the same sampling location every 1-2 weeks after plant emergence.

Benefits of Plant Tissue Analysis:

  • Provides timely insights into the nutrient status of plants.

  • Identifies deficiencies before it’s too late and tracks trends.

  • Helps optimize fertilizer applications and prevent overuse of fertilization.

Challenges of Plant Tissue Analysis:

  • Can be costly and labour-intensive to send samples to a laboratory.

  • Contamination can cause inaccurate results.

Which one is best?

The simple answer is neither. One is not better than the other, but rather they are a dynamic duo essential for optimal plant performance. Generally, soil tests are used before planting to forecast the soil’s capacity to give nutrients and help growers plan optimally for the season ahead. Plant tissue tests are used to monitor if those plans were accurate and allow you to direct the course of action if necessary. When used together, soil and plant tissue testing remove the guesswork and are essential for developing an optimal plant management strategy.

To learn more about how you can conduct real-time plant analysis using a Picketa Systems’ LENS unit, Contact us at The Picketa Systems LENS was developed to remove the typical barriers and challenges associated with sending plant tissue samples to traditional labs, including the cost, time commitment, and hard to understand results.

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