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How to Recognise Nutrient Deficiencies

High-value crops require a precise combination of macro and micronutrients to be happy. Any variation or limitation in your feed program, you will see instant signs of malnutrition. Nutrient deficiencies are a common problem in general gardening & hydroponic systems.

So having a well-balanced base nutrient is important. And providing the right supplements, such as calcium or magnesium or a one-shot premium plant tonic, at the precise time creates an environment that encourages and fosters nutrient uptake and healthy growth.

How then do you recognise that your plants are suffering from nutrient deficiency? Some of the most common signs of plants absorbing insufficient nutrients are stunted plant growth, yellowing or scorched leaves, curled tips, and funky spots on leaves.

For part one of this article, we will focus on identifying signs that show nutrient deficiencies of both macro and micro nutrients. Part two will highlight the processes that every cultivator can take to keep nutrient deficiencies at bay.

Let’s first identify the impact vital nutrient deficiency has on plants in the following segment.

Nitrogen Plants deficient in nitrogen turn pale; have slow growth, show yellowing of older leaves (chlorosis), inter veinal chlorosis in young leaves and the leaves may even fall off, if not taken care of.

Potassium Too little potassium may directly affect leaf growth; the deficiency may cause the leaves to become dull, weak with scrawny branches, curling, dry and rusty brown leaf margin, dark blotches with yellowing in older leaves and possibly delayed flowering.

Phosphorous Deficiency of phosphorous may slow and stunt the growth of plants. Leaves turn blotchy with change in color from green to bluish-green, older leaves curl downward and the color darkens with bottom of leaves turning reddish-purple. Flowers are produced, but will yield low buds and fruit.

Calcium Early symptom of calcium deficiency in plants is distorted or irregularly shaped new leaves (usually on top). Leaf margin and tips become necrotic, have dead spots and will be smaller in size. The stems will also go hollow in harvested plants.

Magnesium Inadequate supply of magnesium results in yellowing between the leaf veins, sometimes with reddish brown tint and early leaf fall. Deficiency always appears first in older leaves and they shed off, but the plant is able to reproduce with inferior quality flowers. A rule of thumb – boost your flowers with a high-quality resin enhancer.

Sulfur Small, puny plants are result of a sulfur deficiency. Young leaves turn yellow, followed by older leaves. Sulfur deficiency should not be confused with nitrogen, which appears first on older leaves and then spread across the entire plant.

Boron Boron deficient plants achieve their required size but the meristematic tissue fails to grow. Fruiting and flowering are hindered often with rotten and hollow roots.

Manganese This deficiency leads to dark spots or patches, yellowing between the leaf veins of young leaves and browning of leaf edges. Leaves, shoot, fruits appear blotchy and fail to grow their normal size.

Molybdenum Lack of molybdenum in nutrient solution leads to yellowing of older leaves at the bottom of plant. The remaining parts appear normal but are slightly light green in colour.

Zinc Tiny leaves with abnormal growth is the primary outcome of insufficient quantity of zinc in nutrient solution. Leaves become characteristically banded, shortened internodes, discolouration of leaf tips and eventual death of leaves and flowers.

Iron Plants receiving a reduced quantity of iron would typically show yellowing in young leaves and pale or bleached new leaves. In a chronic condition, leaves develop necrosis and fall.

Copper A very rare deficiency in plants since the copper requirement is comparatively less. Though, complete absence from nutrient solution leads to dark green leaves with reduced number of branched roots.

Nutrient deficiencies are an important problem to recognise immediately especially if you want your garden to grow to its fullest potential. Stay tuned for part two where we talk about solutions to this common, yet easy to solve problem.


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