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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Nutritional Deficiencies: What They Look Like

Author
item Frantz, Jonathan

Submitted to: Michigan State University Extension
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: December 10, 2005
Publication Date: December 10, 2005
Repository URL: http://www.ars.usda.gov/sp2UserFiles/Place/36071000/Publications/Frantz188005_2005_LookLike.pdf
Citation: Frantz, J. 2005. Nutritional deficiencies: what they look like. Michigan State University Extension Bulletin.

Interpretive Summary: One of the most useful skills to have when wandering a greenhouse is the ability to visually detect nutritional deficiencies in plants. If skilled at this, a grower can correct nutritional problems during production without a major loss of plant yield and quality. I believe the best way to develop this skill is to cause the problems, on a small scale of course, on a few plants and watch as the symptoms develop over time. But who has time to grow each variety in controlled conditions to learn what each plant “says” when it is low in nutrients? To begin learning the symptoms, I think it is helpful to learn all the nutrients and, briefly, what each nutrient does for the plant. It can be helpful also to learn how nutrients move in the plant and, at times, how they get into the plant. With this information in hand, you can begin to learn patterns that are common to all plants for specific nutrients. This will also give us direction on how to correct problems when they do show up. For example, if we see an iron deficiency, is it best to apply foliar spray, apply Fe to the root zone, or just water differently? I included a brief section on how to take a tissue sample as well as how to interpret (and not over-interpret) the results. While a nutrient deficiency may be an obvious visual symptom, knowing what other stresses cause these symptoms may allow us to fix a problem rather than just treat its symptoms. This way, a tomato grower knows the symptoms for not only tomatoes, but for bedding plants, nursery plants, and native species. It is so much easier learning a handful of characteristics than memorizing specifics on each plant species.

Technical Abstract: One of the most useful skills to have when wandering a greenhouse is the ability to visually detect nutritional deficiencies in plants. If skilled at this, a grower can correct nutritional problems during production without a major loss of plant yield and quality. To begin learning the symptoms, I think it is helpful to learn all the nutrients and, briefly, what each nutrient does for the plant. It can be helpful also to learn how nutrients move in the plant and, at times, how they get into the plant. With this information in hand, you can begin to learn patterns that are common to all plants for specific nutrients. This will also give us direction on how to correct problems when they do show up.

Last Modified: 9/29/2014
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