hands holding a plant in soil

Plant Nutrient & Deficiency Information

Plant food that is applied will always pay when plants are deficient. Key concept to remember when evaluating when and what type of plant food is needed as a correction or prevention fertilizer on plant deficiencies.


Nutrient Responsibility in the Plant & its Role

Macronutrients Symbol Mobile in plant Role in plant
Nitrogen N Yes

Formation of amino acids, vitamins and proteins; cell division

Phosphorous P Yes

Energy storage and transfer; cell growth; root and seed formation and growth; winter hardiness; water use

Potassium K Yes

Carbohydrate metabolism, breakdown and translocation; water efficiency; fruit formation; winter hardiness; disease resistance

Chart Obtained from MSU Extension website www.msu.edu

Macronutrients Symbol Mobile in plant Role in plant
Calcium Ca No

Cell division and formation; nitrogen metabolism; translocation; fruit set

Magnesium Mg Yes

Chlorophyll production; phosphorus mobility; iron utilization; fruit maturation

Sulfur S No

Amino acids formation; enzyme and vitamin development; seed production; chlorophyll formation

Chart Obtained from MSU Extension website www.msu.edu

Macronutrients Symbol Mobile in plant Role in plant
Boron B No

Pollen grain germination and tube growth; seed and cell wall formation; maturity promotion; sugar translocation

Chlorine Cl Yes

Role not well understood

Copper Cu No

Metabolic catalyst; functions in photosynthesis and reproduction; increases sugar; intensifies color; improves flavor

Iron Fe No

Chlorophyll formation; oxygen carrier; cell division and growth

Manganese Mn No

Involved in enzyme systems; aids chlorophyll synthesis; P and CA availability

Molybdenum Mo Yes

Nitrate reductase formation; converts inorganic phosphates to organic

Nickel Ni Yes

Nitrogen metabolism and fixation; disease tolerance

Zinc Zn No

Hormone and enzyme systems; chlorophyll production; carbohydrate, starch and seed formation

Chart Obtained from MSU Extension website www.msu.edu

Nutrient Breakdown & Deficiency Symptoms

Note all information attainted form IPNI Crop Nutrient Deficiencies

Nitrogen (N)

Nitrogen is an integral part of all plant proteins. Thus, the nutritive value of the food we eat is largely dependent on the availability of N for crop growth. It is required in greater quantities by crops than any of the other essential nutrients, except for K in some high-yielding crops. Most soil N comes from organic matter, which releases N slowly, the rate being controlled by factors such as temperature, moisture, and texture.

Deficiency Symptom Description
Adequate N produces a dark green color in leaves, caused by a high level of chlorophyll. As a mobile nutrient in plants, deficiency symptoms appear first on older leaves as light green to yellow foliage, and then develop on younger plant parts as the conditions becomes more serve. Other symptoms include stunted, spindly plants, less tillering in small grains, low protein content ... in seed and vegetative parts, fewer leaves. Nitrogen deficient plants will mature early, with significantly reduced yield and quality.

nitrogen deficiency

Phosphorous (P)

Phosphorus is a vital component in the process of plants converting the sun's energy into food, feed, and fiber. Phosphorus plays a key role in photosynthesis, the metabolism of sugars, energy storage and transfer, cell division, cell enlargement, and transfer of genetic information. Phosphorus promotes early root formation and growth, as well as early shoot growth. Soil provides very small amounts of plant available P and this supply must be continually replenished from minerals and organic matter.

Deficiency Symptom Description
The first sign of a P shortage is an overall stunted plant. Leaf shapes may be distorted, and tissue may be dark green in color. With severe deficiency, dead areas may develop on leaves, fruit, and stems. Older leaves are affected before younger ones because of the redistribution of P in the plant. Some plants, such as corn, may display a purple or reddish color on the lower leaves and stems. This condition is associated with accumulation of sugars in P-deficient plants, especially during times of low temperature

phosphorous deficiency

Potassium (K)

Potassium, unlike other nutrients, K does not form compounds in plants, but remains free to 'regulate' many essential processes ... including enzyme activation, photosynthesis, water use efficiency, starch formation, and protein synthesis. Agronomic crops contain about the same amounts of N and K, but K content of many high-yielding crops is even higher than that of N. Most soils contain large amounts of K, but only a small portion is available to plants over a growing season.

Deficiency Symptom Description
One of the most common K deficiency symptoms is scorching or firing along leaf margins. Since K is mobile in the plant, deficiency symptoms appear on older leaves first. Potassium-deficient plants grow slowly and develop poor root systems. Stalks are weak and lodging is common. Seed and fruit are small and shriveled; crops show lower resistance to disease and moisture stress. Plants deficient in K are sensitive to disease infestation and have poor fruit yield and quality.

potassium deficiency

Where Deficiencies Occur in the Plant