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Nutrient Deficiency ID
Transcript of Nutrient Deficiency ID
How to Identify Deficiency
When diagnosing, compare old and new leaves.
If damage is to new leaves and not old, it will show a non-mobile deficiency.
(If the plant could get nutrients to the new leaves, it would)
Common non-mobile nutrients are Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Molybdenum and Cobalt
If symptoms appear on old leaves, it is showing a mobile nutrient deficiency.
The plant moved nutrients to the new leaves.
The problem could be from lack of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magensium, Sulfur, Chlorine or Nickel.
It's essential to know what the plant species you are working with looks like when it's healthy.
Chlorosis, or normally
Deficiency, or a healthy plant
with variegated leaves?
Many pest problems can look like deficiencies, so check to make sure there aren't any signs of pests.
Signs of oozing, rotting, galls, fuzzy growths or holes in the leaves are from pests and disease, not nutrient deficiencies.
Not deficiency- disease
Holes are always from pests
In this case, the front of the leaf may look the same as zinc deficiency but - you can see spider mites on the back.
Some nutrients are
meaning the plant can move them from older leaves to newer ones where they're most needed.
Some nutrients are
meaning once the plant uses them in a certain place, it can't move them.
Look for a pattern of browning
The most common deficiencies
Plants use micronutrients to process macronutrients- so a deficiency in one might make it appear there is a deficiency in another.
Disease can be caused by deficiency
When plants don't have all the nutrition they need, they can't fight off disease by making immune compounds.
If a plant has a disease, it needs to be treated, but there may be a deficiency that is contributing to the disease.
Symptoms typically appear in either old leaves or new leaves.
If symptoms appear on new leaves, the nutrients are immobile.
If symptoms appear on old leaves, the nutrients are non-mobile.
-Plants have stunted growth
-Leaves turn yellow all over, called chlorosis.
(lack of chlorophyll)
-Plants may have stunted growth throughout the whole plant, especially when young
-Older leaves may
develop a dark
-Fruits or seeds may
not develop, or be
small and deformed.
-Plants often have stunted growth
-Older leaves may develop chlorosis and curling along the edge of leaves
-Some crops may have weakened stalks
-Plants may show uniform chlorosis (yellowing) of leaves.
-Growth may be stunted with weak leaves and stems.
-New buds, leaves and root tips fail to develop, turn brown and die.
-Leaf tips are often chlorotic or colorless
may be excreted from
the growing points.
-Young leaves may be
cupped or crinkled
-Buds, blossoms and
fruit may rot and fail to
-Plants may develop intervenal chlorosis - leaf tissue becomes yellow while veins remain green
-Intervental tissue in
some crops may turn
reddish, purplish and
-The entire leaf may
-Leaves may be thickened, curled and brittle. Stems may become cracked
-May have rotting and discoloration of fruits and roots
-Plant may have stunted growth
-Plants have chlorosis, stunted growth, curling of young leaves
-Leaf tips and
leaf edges may
-Leaves may turn
-Plants develop thickened, rolled leaves
-The plant appears to be wilting due to reduced water uptake
-Older leaves may develop small, dark brown spots
-Leaf edges and tips may
also become chlorotic,
which leads to the death
of the leaf
-Young leaves may
become cupped and
-Intervenal chlorosis may form in younger leaves
-Chlorosis and browning may develop on older leaves, killing them
-Leaf margins may develop red or yellow color
-Plant may have stunted growth
Plant have a problem?
Identifying deficiencies is usually done visually, by examining the plant. The color and location of the affected area, or the lack of growth will tell a lot about what the problem is.
If possible, test your soil for nutrient levels before you add anything.
However if the plant's life or harvest is in danger- then your best visual diagnosis should be used to come up with a solution.
If micro-nutrients are missing, your plants might not be able to make use of the macro-nutrients that are there- making it appear to be a macro-nutrient deficiency.
If pH is off- your plants won't be able to absorb nutrients that are already there.
Soybeans deficient in molybdenum can't fix the Nitrogen they need.
While testing the soil is crucial, for some deficiencies, sometimes it's better to test the plant as well. Mostly with trees and grasses.
-Leaves show yellowing
-Growth may be stunted
-Looks similar to N deficiency
A good soil test will show precise nutrient levels.
Different plants should be sampled from different regions.
To take a soil sample, try to get a "slice" of soil several inches deep.
You can use a special tool, or dig a hole with a shovel and take a long scraping from the side.
Once the deficiency is determined, the way to treat depends on what and how severe the problem is.
If planting hasn't yet begun, it's easy to amend the soil by broadcasting and mixing in compost, manure, and other amendments.
Most of the time, you'll want to sample from 20 or 30 different plants.
Compost doesn't have enough nutrients to correct severe macro-nutrient deficiencies.
Composted manure may or may not. But remember, it's released slowly as micro-organisms break it down.
For correcting nutrient deficiencies in plants that are already growing, or for correcting severe deficiencies in soil, you'll need to add strong amendments.
For example, if gardening organically, bone meal, blood meal, and alfalfa have high levels of Nitrogen.
If using chemical fertilizer, choose one WITHOUT a time-release coating to correct severe deficiencies.
Nitrogen can burn plants- so be careful not to apply too much or too close to plants.
Here- fertilizer is "side dressed" next to these young corn.
Top-dressing works for many plants.
When top and side- dressing, good to water shortly after so Nitrogen burn is less likely.
For correcting immediate and severe deficiencies, a foliar spray might be the best method.
Plants absorb nutrients quickly through their leaves.
This is especially helpful for a crop that's well into the growing season.
Calcium deficiency causes blossom end rot. A foliar spray works fast enough to save the crop.
Plants can't absorb enough nutrients to get all their food through their leaves- so you can't use only a foliar spray for fertilizer.
Next- immobile deficiency- Symptoms appear on old leaves (or all leaves).
Let's look at mobile nutrient deficiency-
Symptoms appear on old leaves.
If the plant can move nutrients to younger leaves, it will.
Plant can mobilize nutrients to young leaves
Plant can't mobilize deficient nutrients to young leaves
To determine which nutrient is deficient, look for the color change on leaves, and the pattern.
Zinc deficiency causes a pattern to form on these leaves, yellowing between the veins.
Deficiency or disease? This leaf shows it's missing Magnesium.
Many things can cause damage to a plant- deficiency, disease, fertilizer burn, pesticide damage, poor soil and pests.
Deficiency or disease? It can be hard to tell.
The first thing to check is to ensure plants are getting the right amount of water.
Brown curling leaves? Could be Potassium deficiency- but in this case, it's just a lack of water.
Another Potential Problem:
Too much of a good thing.
Fertilizer can create salts that burn plants if too much is applied- especially Nitrogen.
Raw, uncomposted manure or too much synthetic fertilizer will create burns.
Fertilizer burn typically causes browning of the leaves, starting at the tips.
No deficiency or disease here- just some bugs chowing down on the leaf.
Test for pH
Lab tests are most accurate- but DIY tests can provide instant results.
For more information on how to apply fertilizer- see the unit on Soil Amendments.
For more information on how fertilizers work- see the Fertility and Fertilizer unit.
When plants don't have Nitrogen, they can't make chlorophyll- hence the yellow leaves.
-Causes chlorosis but veins remain green
This plant clearly has a fungus.
However... many plants make compounds that make them indigestible to bugs. ...If they have all the nutrients they need to do it.
With the same conditions, a well-nourished plant has a better chance of fighting off pests by making bad-tasting chemicals.
Disease and pest problems aren't always caused by deficiency- but proper nutrition gives them a fighting chance.
It could be Nitrogen deficient but..
We know this plant is Zinc deficient because the veins are still dark green.
What to look for when
diagnosing a leaf.
To determine deficiency, check leaves for color, shape, and the pattern of damage.
Corn, like other grasses, is a very heavy feeder of Nitrogen
Spider Mite Damage
Notice the irregular spots of damage.
The nutrients plants need the most of- NPK, are most likely to be deficient.
Following that- Magnesium, Calcium, Maganese and Iron are most likely to be missing.
Climate, the parent soil, and the crops grown all determine which deficiency is most likely. Your area may be different than another.
Each deficiency has a pattern. Looking at the following pictures, Can you see the pattern?
PH can be amended with lime, wood ash, or sulfur.
Sources of N
Pee/ animal bedding
N fixing plants
Sources of P
Sources of K
Sources of Mg
Sources of S
Sources of Ca
Visual identification is the best first step.
Ruling out water problems, pests and disease, there are still more factors in deficiency.
Over watering can leach nutrients from the root zone.
Under watering can be a problem if nutrients aren't washed to the roots.
Other nutrients in high concentrations can be toxic to plants, even if they don't "burn."
Sources of chloride
-Leaves are smaller and curled
-Sometimes yellowed at the tip
-Plant growth may be stunted
This rare deficiency is most often found in tree crops.
Sources of Ni
Nickel is usually found in trace quantities in other fertilizers.
In the rare event it's needed- it can be purchased as an amendment
Sources of Fe
Micro-nutrients especially may be present in the soil, but inaccessable to plants due to the pH level.
Sources of Zn
Kelp or seaweed extract
Some nutrients can interfere with the absorption of others. Too much Phosphorus, for example, can hinder Zinc and Iron uptake.
Knowing what deficiencies are common in your area helps you make a faster diagnosis.
Remember, too much fertilizer can cause burning or toxicity, even if applied correctly.
These grapes were deficient in Boron- but spraying them twice caused them to get burnt.
A good sample to send to the lab will include samples from more than one area.
Some nutrients are more mobile in the soil, and some need to be placed right next to the plant.
Mobile nutrients can be anywhere near the root zone
Immobile nutrients need to be right next to the roots
Nutrient mobility in the soil depends on what type of soil you have, and whether the particular nutrient has a positive or negative charge.
The best method of application depends on which nutrient is missing.
Both crops got the same Phosphorus fertilizer- but applied in different ways.
Negatively charged nutrients are more mobile- they won't stick where they are in the soil as much.
In general, more organic matter will be helpful in reducing deficiency by holding nutrients in the soil.
Once you determine the deficiency, you can choose a way to amend the soil, or fertilize the plant directly.
If plants are already in the ground, you can top-dress, side dress, or use a foliar spray.
Choosing a fertilizer
It's up to you if you want to use organic or synthetic fertilizers.
For micro-nutrient deficiencies, seaweed fertilizers and compost tea may be enough to quickly correct any problems.
There are many brands of nutrients, both synthetic and organic that you can choose from.
Sources of Mn
Mo deficiency is not very common
Are all the deficiencies starting to look the same?
How do you tell which is which?
Many deficiencies look the same. Sometimes there is more than one at a time.
Properly identifying deficiency can be difficult. That's why testing the soil can help.
It's a skill to identify nutrient deficiency. Agronomists are "plant doctors" who train for years to be able to properly diagnose and treat plant deficiencies and disease.
The main things to determine are: if the deficiency is on an old leaf or new.
The pattern of the deficiency:
Does it affect the tips of the leaf or the whole leaf?
Is it in patches or blotches?
Does it affect the veins or leave them green?
Sources of Cu
Sources of B
Sources of Mo
Usually adjusting pH will ensure sufficient Mo
In rare cases Mo may be added directly through an amendment or foliar spray.
It's easy to have B toxicity- careful with how much to apply.
Copper sulfate monohydrate
Copper sulfate pentahydrate
Nutrient deficiency in Humans
Just in case you were wondering- nutrient deficiencies can happen to people too.
Iodine deficiencies cause Goiter- a swelling of the thyroid gland in the neck.
People who lived far from the ocean used to get goiters. Now, iodine is added to salt and goiters are rare.
Zinc deficiency can cause white spots and ridges on fingernails
In severe cases it causes rashes.
Long ago, sailors at sea who had no fresh food for months at a time would get scurvey- gum decay and loosening of the teeth.
They discovered bringing citrus fruits on board prevented the disease.
Scurvy is caused by a deficiency in Vitamin C- which oranges and lemons can provide.
Deficiency in calcium or vitamin D can cause rickets- where the bones can't be made strong due to a lack of minerals.
Like plants, humans suffering from nutrient deficiencies can have severe symptoms, or mild symptoms.
Muscle aches, pains and cramps, and poor concentration can be caused by Magnesium deficiency.
To prevent human nutrient deficiency- it helps to eat plants (and animals) that have been well nourished.
Some nutrient deficiencies have even been linked to cancer and serious illnesses.
Some food may have lots of calories but not lots of nutrients. Nutrient deficiency can occur even if someone is heavy or overweight.
Proper plant nutrition is key to proper human nutrition.
Getting proper fertilizer and nutrients in the soil isn't just important for the plant- it's important for the people who eat them.
zinc deficient plant
zinc deficient baby
Beyond mineral deficiency or sufficiency- healthy plants make vitamins and enzymes that are also essential for human health.
Some reports show that soil is has less minerals and micro-nutrients in it than it used - meaning we get less nutrition from what we eat, even if we eat the same amount.
Caring for soil health gives us a better chance of having all the nutrient we need.
Organic food advocates say that there are more nutrients in the food, because compost and manure return micro-nutrients to the soil, and not just NPK.
Of course, if something is grown "organic" but is deficient in an important nutrient- it will still be lacking in nutrition. Making sure both soil and plants are healthy is the most important thing.
This applies to the animals we raise for food as well - if their feed is deficient, they will be deficient, and won't provide as much nourishment to us.
Comparing old and new leaves gives a big clue as to which nutrient might be deficient.