The plants nutrient deficiencies are mainly visible first on the leaves and stems and they must be identified and treated as soon as possible for the optimal development. Now let’s see which deficiencies are the symptoms refers to!

For the plant optimal growth the right amount and quality of nutrient supply is essential, which you can add with the irrigation. It’s important that the pH and EC value of the nutrient solution is adequate for the plant to be able to utilize the minerals. (You can read more about pH and EC measurement in the blog section. (Link at the bottom of the page)).

Here are the generally applicable pH values:

Soil pH 6.0-6.5

Coconut pH 6.0-6.5

Hydroponics: pH 5.2-5.7

The EC level can vary from 0.8 to 2.2 according to the plant lifecycle.

If your pH and EC levels are correct and you still see changes on the leaves, then this article will tell you what nutrient deficiencies you need to fix as soon as possible.


The growth of the plant requires 17 nutrients, which are divided into macro, meso and micro groups.

  • Macro nutrients are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), and also Carbon (C), Oxygen (O) and Hydrogen (H).
  • Meso or secondary nutrients are Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S).
  • Micro nutrients, also called trace elements, include Iron (Fe), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Boron (B), Copper (Cu), Chlorine (Cl), Molybdenum (Mo), and Nickel (Ni).

The nutrient uptake and the nutrient content of plants do not accurately reflect the nutrient supply of the soil, as various physiological and environmental factors can cause nutrient deficiencies in the plant even with optimal soil nutrient content. In the above-ground parts, the distribution of nutrients also depends on the transpiration intensity of each plant part. Insufficient transpiration can also cause inadequate nutrient supply due to relatively high humidity.

Nitrogen (N) deficiency

Nitrogen plays an active role in metabolism and is therefore essential for the plant’s life cycle. Nitrogen demand is proportional to their weight gain, so there is the greatest need for nitrogen supply during the development phase. Nitrogen uptake and utilization vary across species and varieties.

Nitrogen deficiency first appears on the older leaves, so it starts to turn yellow, stiff, often the edge of the leaf turn red and the stems turn purple. This can result early forced flowering, reduced cell division, slower growth, and old yellowing leaves drop off. Nitrogen deficiency can also occur in the case of excessive nutrient supply, as microorganisms in too much organic matter absorb nitrogen and the plant cannot utilize it.

To solve the Nitrogen deficiency it is recommended to increase the EC level of the nutrient solution or to add nitrogen monohydrate. Organic cultivation requires to add organic fertilizer like Plagron Bat Guano or Atami ATA NRG Upgrade.

Phosphorus (P) deficiency

Phosphorus is one of the building block of plant’s DNA and plays an important role in photosynthesis, root formation, respiration and basic biological processes. It plays a major role in the cellular energy household (ATP, ADP) as well as in hereditary compounds (DNA, RNA). Phosphorus is found in the seed nutrient reserve, which provides the nutrients and energy needed to begin development. Phosphorus is crucial for crop production and affects the quantity and quality of the crop.

The phosphorus deficiency first appears on the older leaves, first they are turn to dark green in color, stand upright, coloring reddish, and the leaves become purple and then fall off. The growth of the plant slows down, the stems remain thin, flowering begins later, and the size and quantity of leaves are below normal.

The most phosphorus-demanding vegetables are lettuce, spinach, onion and corn.

To solve the phosphorus deficiency, we recommend to increase the EC level of the nutrient solution or add phosphorus-rich plant nutrients ( For Organic / Bio cultivation use Plagron Bat Guano or Atami ATA NRG Upgrade, Atami Bio-Bloombastic).

Potassium (K) deficiency

Potassium is part of the soil’s mineral constituents, which are absorbed by plants through active ion exchange. The acidity and low pH of the soil, as well as the good oxygenation of the soil and the high carbohydrate content of the roots, promote the release and uptake of potassium. Potassium has a positive effect on photosynthesis and life processes, improves water efficiency in the plant, increases active water uptake and reduces evaporation intensity.

The symptoms of potassium deficiency are less visible, most manifest in yield reduction. The yellowing of the leaves and the appearance of brownish spots often occur later and therefore more difficult to diagnose. Potassium deficiency can also be caused by excessively high levels of calcium or magnesium.

To remedy for potassium deficiency, we recommend to add potassium monohydrate or Atami Bloombastic PK flowering. Organic growers should add Bat Guan or Atami NRG fertilizer to the grow medium.

Calcium (Ca) deficiency

Calcium is hardly soluble in soil, but its solubility increases with lower pH. It has a versatile role in physiological processes, in the functioning of cell membranes, and increases the plant’s resistance. Calcium is essential for the healthy growth of roots and the functioning of life processes.

Symptoms of calcium deficiency may include root failure, leaf disruption and the leaf edge cracked, brownish-yellow spots shows on the leaf surface, and drastic reduction in water supply. Calcium deficiency can also be caused by too high an EC level, too high level of potassium and magnesium, or an incorrect pH level.

To solve the calcium deficiency you can use Calcium nitrate solution or ATAMI CalMag or Bio Nova Ca supplemental, keep in mind that EC and pH levels are optimal. You can also use calcium in the nutrient solution or use as a leaf spray.

Magnesium (Mg) deficiency

The magnesium content of the soil depends on its colloidal content and the pH. Magnesium is a central component of chlorophyll and plays an important role in photosynthesis, biosynthesis of amino acids and proteins. Insufficient supply of phosphorus inhibits magnesium uptake, while abundant supply of potassium increases the need for magnesium.

Signs of magnesium deficiency are difficult to spot as visible signs only appear after 3-4 weeks. The leaves are shrinking, with brighter brownish-rust spots growing on the veins of older leaves, and later dying spots. Magnesium deficiency may be caused by incorrect EC and pH levels, extreme temperatures in the growing medium, and excessive nitrogen or phosphorus levels in the soil.

You can treat magnesium deficiency by adding ATAMI CalMag, Bio Nova Mg to the grow medium or using a magnesium solution, which can be used in the nutrient solution and as a leaf spray. In organic cultivation, the addition of organic fertilizer juice is the most optimal solution.

Sulfur (S) deficiency

Sulfur plays an important role in plant’s life as it’s a building block of proteins, hormones and cellular fluid. Helps the plant to produce enzyme and protein, and plays a role in water household and photosynthesis.

The symptoms of sulfur deficiency when the young leaves are brighter in color, similar to nitrogen deficiency. Later, the plant stem and leaf veins will turn purple and the leaves will be bright yellow. The problem may be caused by too high pH or EC level.

Sulfur deficiency can be treated by adding sulfur and magnesium monohydrates to the nutrient solution. In case of organic growing, fungi or bio fertilizers (eg Bat Guano) can be used.

Iron (Fe) deficiency

Iron is found in mineral soils in the form of oxide or hydroxide and it’s available for the plant at low pH level. Iron is essential for chlorophyll formation, and plays an important role in photosynthesis and plant respiration. Deficiency of iron inhibits the development of the plant.

Iron deficiency symptoms first appear on the upper leaves of the plant, on younger leaves, the veins turn yellow, and the veins of the leaf remain green. In severe cases, the young leaves turn white and then die. Iron deficiency can be caused by the presence of a small amount of iron, an excessively high pH level, or an excess of calcium, zinc and magnesium. It is worth checking that the medium is well oxygenated and the soil is between the optimum 18-22 Celsius. It is important not to develop algae in the medium / water tank as they use iron and break down the iron chelate.

The most effective way to solve the iron deficiency is to add Plagron Vita Race to the nutrient solution (or leaf spray). ATAMI Bloombastic is an organic plant nutrient rich in iron and PK and is recommended for any grow medium.

Zinc (Zn) deficiency

Zinc plays an important role in nitrogen metabolism, in the synthesis of plant hormones and in the formation of enzyme complexes.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency can be seen during leaf chlorosis, followed by leaf death. In case of high phosphorus supply zinc deficiency can be observed.

Copper (Cu) deficiency

Copper plays a major role in the production of plant enzymes.

Symptoms of copper deficiency appear in the slowing and then dying of growing parts, which may be due to high pH. Overdose occurs mainly in copper tube systems.

Copper deficiency rarely occurs due to the composition of modern plant fertilisers.

Manganese (Mn) deficiency

Manganese plays a role in the production of hormones and enzymes in plant life.

In the absence of manganese, older leaves become lighter in color, with green patches appearing along the veins. In the case of severe manganese deficiency, young shoots dry out.

You can avoid manganese deficiency by using premium quality plant nutrition.

Boron (B) deficiency

The lack of boron hinders the formation of cell walls and the transport of sugar.

It rarely occurs as a deficiency symptom, as modern plant fertilisers contains adequate amounts of Boron.

Molybdenum (Mo) deficiency

Plants take up molybdenate anions, which are mainly involved in nitrate reduction, which is necessary for bacteria to bind nitrogen.

The lack of molybdenum inhibits nitrate reduction and therefore inhibits plant growth. Deficiency is rarely the case if you use a high quality fertiliser.

Extra: Silicon (Si) nutrient

Silicon is the second most abundant element in the earth, constituting pebbles, sand, clay and quartz. In the forefront, it plays an important role in human and plant physique. Research has shown that silicon strengthens the plant resistance and it has a beneficial effect on its development during the vegetative phase.

The added silicon stimulates strong cell wall formation, aids in nutrient uptake and makes the plant more resistant to negative environmental influences.

The ATAMI Silic Boost Concentrated Silicon, which can be used as a separate supplemental nutrient, has proven to be a powerful stimulant.

I hope you find this article helpful and we wish you a succesfull harvest.

#growyourown #plantnutrients #plantfood #nutrients #plantdeficiencies

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