Tissue testing is one tool in a farmer’s agronomy toolbox. It’s a tool that can help them decide if their crop is getting secondary and micronutrients, diagnose problem areas in fields, and evaluate nutrient uptake.

But why is this important? By paying attention to the details, farmers can push the yield barrier higher and higher. If a nutrient is found lacking, there is still time for a foliar application to increase yield in this year’s crop or adjust the nutrient program next year.

This year, sulfur (S), boron (B) and zinc (Zn) are some of the nutrients coming back low in tissue testing. Boron is an example of a nutrient that can be added to a post herbicide application, if found to be deficient in a tissue test. It’s important to use the tissue test tool in conjunction with a soil test to properly correct and balance the soil.

Over the past 10 years, sulfur has been showing up lower and lower in soil and tissue tests. Due to less pollution from coal-fired powered plants and the fact that not many farmers are replacing this nutrient. Sulfur can be easily added to starter, sidedress or with a gypsum application.

In Beck’s Practical Farm Research (PFR)® program, studies are being conducted to determine what methods are economical and yield promoting to supply these nutrients. Beck’s PFR program conducts more than 80 different farmer-focused studies at multiple locations.

Study: Beck’s Gypsum Study (pg. 295 in 2014 PFR book)
Location: Ohio PFR in London
Purpose: Some farmers have been applying gypsum on their fields with potential benefits such as adding sulfur, improving soil drainage, and ultimately increasing yields.  In 2014, Beck’s began this multi-year study where gypsum is applied at different rates to see the effect on yield.
Summary: Gypsum is used to help break up surface compaction and ultimately improve emergence. It was applied on top of the ground and not incorporated. A yield increase of 10.2 Bu./A. was seen with 2,000 lb. of pelletized gypsum and a 6.1 Bu./A. yield increase was achieved with 1,000 lb. of pelletized gypsum.

Study: Beck’s Micronutrient Study (pg. 70 in 2014 PFR book)
Location: Central Indiana PFR in Atlanta
Purpose: To evaluate different foliar micronutrient products in an attempt to maximize corn yields. Micronutrient products were studied with and without plant growth regulators and applied at V4 growth stage.
Summary: The study produced mixed results. The micronutrient treatments performed best when they were used without a plant growth regulator. Without a growth regulator, the micronutrients increased yields by 2.4 Bu./A. and return on investment by $2.96/A. on average. Versa Max AC performed best, boosting yields by 6.5 Bu./A. and ROI by $20.84/A. Average yield increases were marginal at 1.4 Bu./A. when paired RyzUp SmartGrass and 0.5 Bu./A. when paired with Ascend. When the micronutrients and growth regulators were paired, the average returns on investment were negative. In the past, micronutrient treatments have provided much stronger returns. Beck’s will continue to test these products to determine how consistent they are over time.

Study: Beck’s Versa Max Study (pg. 220 in 2014 PFR book)
Location: Central Illinois PFR in Downs
Purpose: Beck’s has been conducting this multi-year study for four years, evaluating applications of Versa Max Corn. Versa Max is a mixture of macro and micronutrients that can be applied as a foliar application or in-row starter/sidedress application. Versa Max improves plant health by providing efficient delivery of nitrogen (N), sulfur (S), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn) as part of a total fertility program that will decrease plant stresses and increase potential for maximum genetic expression. It also contains ingredients in the formulation to enhance the spray tank mix compatibility and spray humectancy to provide improved nutrient uptake. In this study, Beck’s compared foliar treatments at 1 qt./A. applied at the V5 growth stage. Additional tank treatments are also evaluated along with Versa Max to see if there may be some synergistic activity with the combination treatment.
Summary: Versa Max corn treatments in 2014 improved yields by an average of 5.2 Bu./A. and showed a positive return on investment of $16.08/A. From 2011-2014, Versa Max results have shown a 5.6 Bu./A. increase and the net return on investment of $27.11/A. Versa Max Corn with PercPlus revealed a yield increase of 3.0 Bu./A. over Versa Max with no tank treatment. Versa Max with RyzUp® Smartgrass had a yield increase of 2.7 Bu./A. over Versa Max with no tank treatment. Perc Plus contributed to higher net returns of $9.64A. over Versa Max with no tank treatment. Additional testing needs to be completed to monitor any true synergy from these products.

For more information on the studies listed or to see the full results click here.

In addition, click here for a video discussing what farmers should consider when tissue testing and how farmers can collect their own tissue tests.