PACE Turf - Turfgrass Information Center

Turfgrass Tissue Testing: Pros and Cons

Bottom line: Making sure that turf is receiving optimal nutrition is one the most important activities that turf managers carry out. If the correct nutrients are applied at the right times and in the right amounts, turf health is maximized, while run-off, negative environmental impacts, high costs and high clipping yields are minimized. There are several different tools that are useful in nutrient decision making. Analysis of turf tissues as a means of determining fertility requirements has been popular in the past, but is plagued by sampling errors and by the fact that it does not detect some parameters that are important in turf health. For this reason, anaylsis of soil chemistry is usually a more useful indicator. If tissues analyses are conducted, however, it is important to distinguish between two methods. NIRS (near infrared reflectance spectroscopy) provides a rapid and accurate analysis of tissue nitrogen, but is not accurate for any other nutrients, while conventional wet chemistry provides somewhat better estimates of a wide spectrum of nutrients in turf tissues. Tissue analyses by any method can be useful, especially for investigating specific problems, but should always be used in conjunction with – and not instead of soil analyses.

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by Wendy Gelernter, Ph.D. and Larry J. Stowell, Ph.D.

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