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Getting season-long data

By Staff | Jul 20, 2015

MITCH LARSON, an agronomist for WinField Solutions, clips a corn leaf while tissue-sampling a test plot at WinField’s Vincent campus.

VINCENT – “Data is the lifeblood, it’s at the core of what we are trying to do,” said Mitch Larson, an agronomist with WinField Solutions.

Larson was walking through the test plot at WinField’s Vincent location, talking about the importance of taking several tissue samples of corn and beans throughout the growing season to get that vital data.

“Tissue sampling,” Larson said, “is a snapshot of the plant. It answers the questions, what’s in the soil? What is the plant getting and when? Is anything lacking?”

Several samples should taken during the year, he said.

“It’s not as simple as see-this-then-do-that,” Larson said. “The main goal is to know what the plant needs at any time in its life so it’s not stressed.”

-Farm News photos by Larry Kershner MITCH LARSON, demonstrates how a software app with GPS capabilities help agronomists to find the exact spot to take tissue samples throughout a growing season.

Hard questions

Despite a plethora of internet apps available to give farmers real-time information on weather conditions in their fields and other technologies, Larson said apps can only do so much for crop management decisions.

“You still have to ask the hard questions,” Larson said. “Tissue sampling is part of the overall conversation to a holistic crop plan.

“And after harvest you can see what worked and how to tweak the process for next season.”

Larson recommended tissue sampling corn at V5, V10 and at tasseling, while sampling soybeans after V2 and twice during the reproductive phases.

Larson said there is a nutrient heirarchy that agronomists have to respect when determining mid-season applications.

“If there are macro-nutrient deficiencies,” he said, “micro-nutrient applications won’t make a difference.

“And it’s worth noting (that) we can’t throw nutrients out there blindly.

“We have to be smarter, we have to use the available technology and manage acre-by-acre.”

Larson said researchers are finding fewer nutrient deficiencies in plants if they get good early root development.

WinField Solutions is a regional cooperative, a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes Inc., which is owned by 1,000 member cooperatives.

WinField conducts an estimated 4,000 test plots across the U.S.

Larson said growers expect researchers like WinField to take the risks in trying new strategies.

“Corn is too expensive,” Larson said, “to hope that something works.”

So the member cooperatives use WinField’s research results to get the results into growers’ hands.

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