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How to Properly Collect Tissue Samples in Your Fields

Tissue sampling

When it comes to crop inputs, every dollar counts—and the best way to know where to invest your hard-earned money into your crops is through data. When your livelihood depends on the decisions you make and the outcome of your crop, there is no room for guesswork.

Soil and tissue sampling provide the insight you need to truly understand the health of your crops and soil. Unlocking this data empowers you to choose the products your crops need, and skip the ones they don’t.

But, in order for this to be effective, you first need to make sure you are properly collecting the samples. We’ve talked about how to collect soil samples in your fields, and now it’s time to go over collecting tissue samples.

Frequent tissue sampling—at least three times throughout the season—is key to tracking changing tissue concentrations and maintaining an accurate understanding of your crops, so keep these reminders handy to make it a seamless process every time.

1. Use Your Resources

Crops have unique growth cycles and timelines, which means sampling timelines are unique, too. Frequency and timing of collecting tissue samples depends on the crop, so follow the sampling protocol for your lab. Agronomy 365 has a comprehensive guide that includes key growth stages to collect samples in, and how to identify your crops’ current growth stage.

The teams at BW Fusion and Agronomy 365 can also help you confirm the growth stage of your crop and the specific sample collection timing and amounts for you. We are here to help you, and we want the soil and tissue sampling process to be as easy as possible.

2. Make Good Choices

When the time to pull samples comes, the choices you make in selecting the area, plants and even specific leaves to collect from can impact the results you see in your sample reports.

It may seem easiest just to pull samples from the end rows of your fields, but that doesn’t provide the most accurate representation of your overall crop health. End rows are more exposed to the environment and can have surprisingly major differences in growing conditions. Take the opportunity to get some extra steps in, and walk past the end rows when collecting samples. The most important thing to keep in mind is getting an accurate representation of your crop health.

It is also important to use healthy tissue—not tissue that has been under high amounts of stress from conditions like prolonged time in standing water or damage from insects or disease. Again, the primary goal is obtaining an accurate representation of the health of your overall crop, not just pointing out the “weakest link.”

While you want to be strategic about where in your fields you are collecting samples, when it comes to selecting which plant in that area, keep it random. This is especially important when the field you are collecting samples from is under stress. You want to select random plants to give you an accurate representation of your field’s average.

Once you have the plants selected, it’s back to being picky. While you want the plant to be random, you want to be strategic in selecting leaves to pull. Just as we become “older and wiser” with age, the upper, mature leaves give better insight than the newer, younger leaves. Uppermost, recently mature leaves are the ideal representatives for sampling, as leaves that are too young (or too old) may not accurately reflect the nutrient status of the plant as a whole.

As you collect your samples, make sure you are collecting enough to get an accurate representation of your crop. The tissue is dried and ground before the analysis is performed, so the lab ends up with much less plant material than you may think. Aim for enough plant tissue you could form a softball with it.

3. Keep it Clean

The final reminder throughout the tissue sample collection process is to keep yourself and your samples clean. Remember, the lab is testing your plant tissue, not the grime and sweat that builds up on your hands out in the field.

Clean your hands before pulling a tissue sample, then rinse the plant tissue before sending it to the lab. But, it’s important to make sure the water you are using to rinse the sample is clean, too. Tap water has ion concentrations that may affect analysis results. Use bottled or deionized water as an extra precaution against contamination.

Once you have your clean, shiny tissue sample, go ahead and place it in the sample bag, but don’t seal it until the plant material is fully dry. While it’s drying, keep the sample stored in a dust-free, cool environment so you don’t ruin all your hard work keeping the sample clean and end up with contamination.

When the sample is fully dried and you’re ready to send it off, follow the lab’s instructions for finishing your sample submission and transporting the sample to them.

Stop guessing. Start growing. Let’s talk about how to integrate soil and tissue sampling into your farm management plan. Need supplies? Get them here!

BONUS: Check out what our BW Fusion agronomists keep handy in the truck when they are out in the field collecting samples or scouting crops.