Plant tissue analysis can provide additional information on the nutritional status of a turfgrass stand when used in conjunction with soil testing. While soil tests indicate the level of available essential nutrients in the soil, they do not indicate what the plant has actually taken up. Analysis of turfgrass tissue samples indicates the level of macro and micronutrients actually in the plant. However, low tissue levels of a given plant nutrient may not indicate a lack of nutrient availability but rather an abiotic problem, such as stress, or a biotic problem, such as a root pathogen, that reduces or inhibits nutrient uptake. A lack of regional correlation data and numerous problems regarding taking representative tissue samples further limit the impact of using tissue sampling as the primary tool for adjusting nutrient management programs.
Perhaps the greatest potential use of tissue sampling is for turf grown on soil with a very low cation exchange capacity (CEC), such as the high sand content mixtures used on greens and tees. In these situations, the nutrient retentive capacity of the soil is very low, and the potential for nutrient imbalances (high levels of one nutrient causing excessively low levels of another nutrient) in the plant is thus relatively high. Tissue sampling can indicate when such imbalances are occurring. These situations are most likely to be occur with micronutrients, but can also occasionally occur with macronutrients. The University of Maryland’s Plant Diagnostic Laboratory provides plant problem diagnosis for all crops.