Bridging the Yield Gap: The Time Is Now to Put Tissue Sampling on the Calendar

April. 27, 2010 (Shoreview, Minn.) ― More than 60 percent of Midwest corn and soybean plants may be missing out on vital micronutrients – and those shortages are hurting yields, says a Winfield Solutions, LLC agronomist.* The good news, he adds, is that a simple test performed before key growth stages can give growers the information they need to correct deficiencies.

“Tissue sampling of growing plants in six Midwest states last year revealed deficiencies in one or more micronutrients,” reports agronomist Robert Beck, Winfield Solutions, LLC. “Left untreated, they can result in yield losses of up to six bushels per acre.” Beck noted that only a small percentage of growers are taking advantage of tests that can pinpoint micronutrient needs while there is still time to correct them.

Winfield Solutions agronomists and technical services specialists conducted the sampling study in 2009.** The survey measured the seven essential micronutrients for corn and soybean plants: zinc, iron, copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum and chlorine.

Micronutrients and Yield

While micronutrients occur naturally in soil, years of record-breaking yields have left many fields depleted, says Beck, adding that even crops planted in nutrient-rich soils can be deficient if they are unable to absorb micronutrients at the right time.

Maintaining correct micronutrient levels is especially critical for crops under stress. Unlike corn, where yield records continue to be broken, Midwest soybean yields appear to be reaching a plateau. “Unprecedented weather conditions have raised the insect and disease pressure for soybeans to the point where yields are stagnating and some growers are reporting declines,” Beck says. “But crossing the 100-bushel barrier is possible, using a combination of best management practices including fungicides, insecticides and micronutrients.”

A 2009 Illinois soybean study** conducted by Winfield Solutions and Lake Land College demonstrated the impact of carefully timed micronutrient applications on yield. “Tissue testing just before the critical R1 reproductive stage indicated deficiencies in several key micronutrients,” explains Beck. “After a foliar application of boron, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc, provided by AgriSolutions™ MAX-IN® for Beans, a second round of tissue sampling revealed healthy micronutrient levels. Even better, side-by-side yield results showed 4 to 6 extra bushels per acre over untreated crops, which are economically and statistically significant.”**

Targeting With Tissue Sampling

In an effort to maintain healthy nutrient levels, some growers opt for a “shotgun” approach, adding a variety of micronutrients to crop protection tank mixes. Inefficient and costly, this method can still leave plants deficient if the wrong nutrients are applied or timing is off, Beck cautions.

Tissue sampling is a simple, effective way to learn exactly how a crop is responding to its environment before input decisions are made, he says. The sampling must be performed before crops reach critical growth stages when yield potential could be compromised. Sample windows will vary by crop and growing conditions, so Beck advises growers to start early by contacting their local agronomist to learn the right times for their operation.

“The moment seed is planted, growers should put tissue sampling on the calendar,” he urges.

Tools for Analysis

To translate tissue sample results into action plans, Winfield Solutions has teamed up with its partnered dealerships and testing laboratories to deliver results using its proprietary NutriSolutions® Tool. This value-added service gives growers a deeper look into plant-soil relationships, plus provides recommendations on micronutrient applications and more to help crops reach their full potential.

“Each season, growers put their livelihoods on the line when they sink seed into the ground,” says Beck. “Tissue sampling is a smart way to monitor crop health and prevent costly missed opportunities to correct micronutrient deficiencies.”

Beck urges growers to work with local agronomists to determine the right approach for each operation. “It comes down to using sound agronomics, applying the right nutrients, in the right levels, at the right time. Growers who partner with professionals and tap into strategic tools will continue to push expectations on yield potential.”

For more information on micronutrient needs and the best time for tissue sampling based on crop and growing conditions, contact a local AgriSolutions™ agronomist or visit

About Winfield Solutions

Winfield Solutions, LLC (, is a wholly owned limited-liability company of Land O’Lakes, Inc., and operates as a separate legal entity of the Land O’Lakes, Inc., family of companies. With expertise and performance as core company values, the WinField Solutions™ brands match top-performing seed, crop protection products and other proprietary products with unparalleled industry expertise to help growers, dealers and other industry partners achieve the highest level of success. Backed with unrivaled technical services and knowledge, WinField Solutions™ products deliver outstanding results and value for the agricultural industry.