Soil & Leaf Testing – A Critical Step for Profitable Crops

If you are a grower who wants to achieve optimum yields, improved plant health and profitability then performing soil and leaf tests at set times throughout the season should be part of your standard farming practice.  Growers are increasingly incorporating this into their practices, not only for the crops’ health and yield, but to save money by only applying the exact nutrient requirements at set times.

Soil health is a critical element and is the life-blood of your business. In this context, it is critically important to gain an understanding of the mechanics of soil fertility and nutrition.  Nine out of ten growers who perform soil tests repeat the process year after year because soil balancing combined with biological activation (improving soil microbe activity) achieves results.  A soil analysis will highlight any deficiencies and excesses so that these can be addressed.

Leaf testing is also another critical step as it provides information on your crop’s current status in terms of their nutritional levels.  This enables the grower to adjust foliar applications throughout the season to the exact requirements of the plants.  Based on ideal levels growers can achieve precision nutrition at each critical crop stage.

How to Perform a Soil and Leaf Test

Taking soil and leaf samples is a simple process and for a small fee a laboratory (that specialises in soil and leaf testing) can provide an analysis. It is recommended that growers seek the advice of an Agronomist to interpret these results, as they have access to ideal nutritional levels for various crops, and can then work out what is required in terms of fertiliser inputs. The cost varies throughout laboratories and some Agronomists charge consulting fees. However, these costs are minimal when you compare the benefits this analysis has on your crop and profitability.

When to Perform a Soil and Leaf Test

It is recommended that a soil test is performed once a year. Tree fruit growers generally do this at the end of the season in order to address soil requirements in time for the next season. An initial soil test may reveal many deficiencies but as you continue each year the soil will require less and less nutrients as it becomes corrected.

Leaf tests need to be performed more regularly, as the crop changes substantially throughout the crop cycle. It is recommended that leaf tests are ideally performed monthly for tree crops or, at the least, at critical crop stages such as pre-flowering and at fruit set. It is also a good idea to conduct a leaf analysis at the same time as your annual soil test. This will help to complete the picture as it will help to identify nutrients with an availability issue that may appear to be at adequate levels in the soil (commonly due to a soil biology deficit or a nutritional antagonism) in addition to identifying nutrients that the trees may be accessing from sub-soil reserves. A leaf test at this stage allows for a remedial liquid application that will help to build tree reserves for the following season. This is a key time for ensuring optimum nutrition as a limiting element can severely impact on future yield.

Soil and leaf testing provides you, as the producer, a healthier (less pest issues), more profitable crop. It also provides consumers with more nutritious fruits and vegetables while also having longer shelf-life and better tastes and textures. In a world where consumers are becoming more particular about the quality of their food this represents a step all growers should not overlook.

For details on our Soil & Plant Therapy™ services, including taking samples, laboratory testing, free Agronomic advice and sustainable product solutions, please contact NTS on +61 7 5472 9900 or sales@nutri-tech.com.au.

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