How to recognize plant deficiencies

Today in Gardenprue we are going to talk to you about some problems that can arise in our orchard or garden and that has to do with the appearance of mineral deficiencies . These originate because we need to add some fertilizer rich in the specific mineral and finding the problem is difficult. If you want to learn to identify these deficiencies, this is your article!


If we analyzed a plant in a laboratory we would extract more than 100 mineral elements . Meeting the needs of each 1 by 1 is impossible, which is why they are generally divided into 2 types: microelements and macroelements .

When the soil is not able to meet the needs of the plant or crop, the first visual symptoms of mineral deficiencies or deficiencies appear. Identifying the cause of the problem is vital to start treatment and in some cases it is quite complex to know which element is the one that is not in sufficient quantity in the plant because it can be masked with pests or diseases , lack of irrigation, sunstroke, etc.

The fact of differentiating microelements and macroelements is not based on the fact that some minerals are more important than others, since all are equally essential and are known as essential elements (their absence paralyzes a physiological function and intervenes in an enzymatic reaction of the plant, and cannot develop without them).

The difference between micro and macro lies in the quantity .

In the case of microelements, which we will say below, they need fewer contributions for optimal plant development and quite the opposite of macroelements, which must be found in greater quantities in the plant.

A single deficiency completely misaligns the nutrition of the plant



  • Carbon: 40-50%
  • Oxygen: 42-44%
  • Hydrogen: 6-7%


  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium
  • Match


  • Football
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur



  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Boro
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Molybdenum
  • Chlorine

It may be that despite the fact that we have added our organic matter , in sufficient quantity or not, symptoms appear in the plant, which are usually visualized on the leaves, flowers or fruits, with color changes or general wilting.

The problem with the deficiency of the essential elements is that the lack of one reduces the performance of the rest of the minerals, due to the mobility and presence of antagonists between them, which makes the problem worse. Identifying which element is missing and correcting it in time will ensure good production at the end of the season and a positive yield from our garden.

Let’s see the function of each element and the symptoms that the plant presents when they are not in sufficient quantity. The essential macroelements (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen) are not mentioned as susceptible to deficiencies since they are extracted from the air or irrigation water and are not part, as those that appear below, of the extraction of solids from the soil.


Symptoms on the plant

The first symptoms in the plant are observed on the oldest leaves. These leaves lose their natural green color and gradually turn yellow, including the veins. If the deficiency continues, the new leaves will also turn yellow.


Symptoms on the plant

the lack of phosphorus in the plant produces alterations in the old leaves. On them a color change towards dark greens is appreciated. This color, with the advance of symptoms, becomes reddish and dries.

You can also find out the problem due to a reduction in the size of these, although this symptom appears when the lack of this element is pronounced. In addition, the stems and shoots become thinner and produces a general wilting or loss of vigor over the plant, in advanced stages of the problem.


Symptoms on the plant

As in the case of the lack of nitrogen in the plant, this deficiency occurs in the old leaves, but its appearance is totally different from the previous case. The tips and edges of the leaves turn yellow to necrotize and dry out over time. In some cases (although it is not the common one) a reddish coloration is observed on the young leaves.


Calcium is an element that guarantees the vigor of the plant and gives rigidity to the stems that support the leaves and flowers. It presents the problem that it is not a mobile element in the plant and it is difficult for the roots to absorb it easily.

It is a great companion to Boron, and it has been shown that without the presence of this element, calcium does not fix very well on the crop.

Symptoms on the plant

Calcium deficiency usually occurs in acidic soils (below pH 5) or in very basic soils (pH> 9) and the first symptoms appear on young leaves, where circular spots are formed that turn brown with time and necrosan.

On the stems, weakening (as in phosphorus) and yellowing on young shoots are also observed.


 Symptoms on the plant

The first symptoms of magnesium deficiencies appear on old leaves. The leaf turns yellow in color, turning reddish or tan over time. In the case of lemon, for example, an inverted V appears at the base of the leaf.


The lack of iron in plants causes the well-known iron chlorosis , in whose article you will find complete information to identify and correct it.

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