Tender Fruit

Tissue Sampling for Tender Fruit (Peaches, Nectarines, Cherries and Pears)

Skye Earley (OMAFRA Summer Student) and Kathryn Carter (Fruit Specialist, OMAFRA)


Global fertilizer prices are at near record levels and may remain elevated throughout 2022 and beyond. Determining nutrient levels in fruit trees can help to optimize fertilizer use, resulting in economic and environmental benefits to growers. 

Tissue sampling is an important tool in determining the fertilizer needs of fruit trees. Understanding nutrient levels in the trees can help make informed decisions on fertilizer rates which can impact this season and next year’s crop. Leaf analysis can help determine which nutrients are present in adequate, deficient or excessive amounts. This information provides a better understanding of the nutrients the plants are up taking and helps to identify problems before growth or yields are affected.

Tissue analysis won’t reveal the reason why the nutrients in the plants are present in excess or deficient (ie. plant unable to take up nutrients due to water stress, or lack of nutrients in the soil). As a result, tissue sampling should not be used as a stand-alone testing practice. Annual tissue sampling used in conjunction with soil analysis every three years, can provide a better understanding of crop fertility needs.

How and When Tissue Sampling for Tender fruit Should be Conducted

Timing-Sample leaves in the last 2 weeks of July.

Location- Divide your farm into different sampling units based on soil type, management history and variety. In farms with uniform and large blocks of similar age and varieties, sampling units can be as large as 15 acres. It is best to sample from the same trees each year.

Sampling– The sample location on the tree and number of samples collected may differ depending on the crop (Table 1). Regardless of the crop, select healthy, undamaged leaves from the middle of this year’s shoots (mature leaves). The tissue sample should consist of the entire leaf along with the petiole. Avoid taking samples after a pesticide or fertilizer treatment as it may affect the test results. If shoots are dirty, rinse them with tap water and lay the leaves flat to dry.  Place tissue samples in clearly labelled paper bags (farm name, date, crop, variety, sample # etc.) prior to sending them to the lab for analysis.

Analysis-Fresh samples will provide the most accurate test results, so if possible, keep samples cool and take them to a lab immediately. If that is not possible, dry the samples, and they can be submitted to the lab at a later date.

Where to send the samples-Several Ontario commercial testing laboratories can provide you with leaf analysis. A list of accredited laboratories can be found here.

Interpreting the lab analysis-OMAFRA’s nutrient sufficiency ranges for fruit crops can be found at here

Table 1 Sampling recommendations for tender fruit in Ontario  

Stage of Growth/Timing
Plant Part Sampled
Approximate Number to Collect
Cherry, Montmorency
Last 2 weeks of July
Mature mid-shoot leaves of current year growth at shoulder height
10 leaves from 10 representative trees
Last 2 weeks of July
Mature mid-shoot leaves of current year growth at shoulder height
10 leaves from 10 representative trees
Last 2 weeks of July
Mature mid-shoot leaves of current year growth at shoulder height
10 leaves from 10 representative trees

A link to this information can be found here.


Eric Hanson, M. S. U. E. (2022, January 21). Tissue analysis for monitoring fruit nutrition. MSU Extension. Retrieved July 11, 2022, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/tissue_analysis_for_monitoring_fruit_nutrition

Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Soil Management, Fertilizer Use, Crop Nutrition and Cover Crops for Fruit Production. (n.d.). Retrieved July 5, 2022, from http://omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/soil_fruit.htm

 Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Time for leaf and petiole sampling. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2022, from http://omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/news/hortmatt/2016/10hrt16a2.htm

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