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How to know nutrient deficiency in plants? Know remedies

Eating plant based food has become a trend these days.Of Course,because of the manifold benefits of transforming oneself to a vegetarian. Becoming a vegetarian has become all the way more appealing because of the availability of fresh produce year around,more vegetarian dining options and yes,growing culinary influence of cultures with largely plant based diets.As compared to meat eaters,vegetarians consume lesser amounts of fats and cholesterol and their diet is rich in fibres by virtue of which,they tend to have lower BMI,LDL(bad cholesterol) and blood pressure as well. Becoming a vegetarian also helps in reducing the risk of cancer.The risks that are linked to a pure vegetarian diet include deficiencies in certain vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B12, and Omega 3-fatty acids. 

“Hey,you are looking pale and weak,you need to get yourself checked for iron deficiency!”

“Your blood takes quite long to clot! You need to get yourself tested for Vitamin K”

These are some of the statements one might hear if she/he is showing some common visual signs of any sort of vitamin deficiency. In humans though,it is quite easy to spot/conjecture some common nutrient deficiency if you have some basic knowledge about it.Like,weaker bones are usually associated with vitamin D deficiency,vitamin K deficiency or you can say,phytonadione deficiency is evident if a person has longer blood clotting time.Of Course the aforementioned facts are just what a medico would call,provisional diagnosis.i.e possible diagnosis after compilation of facts from the patient as well as by observing her/him as well.The diagnosis is confirmed only by further investigatory tests which your doctors asks you to get done.

Coming back to the point,nutrient deficiencies in humans are,on a comparative note easier to spot by virtue of certain circumstances.Like,we are able to communicate our symptoms,we are self conscious and well aware of our surroundings.But,we all know that plants too require nutrition and failing to get that nutrition,they might get destroyed.And yes,nutrient deficiency identification aint a cakewalk,you need to have  very good observation skills as here,in this case you have to get your work done,solely on observing the plants as pertinently they cannot ‘speak’.You may think that identifying nutrient deficiency in plants is not your cup of tea and is ought to be done by some botanist or agriculturist,but we are here to help you out!

Seeds are very precious and hence these little but high yielding seeds should be given utmost care. They should be sown carefully with the right gardening tools and should be provided with maximum nutrition too. We are here to inform and make you well aware about the types and symptoms of some common nutrient deficiencies in plants.

Types of Nutrient deficiency in plants along with their symptoms and remedies

If you are growing your plants in soil,it will derive its nutrition from soil itself so make best soil for seeds, and if you are using Hydroponics or any other sans-soil media,you use a premixed solution containing amounts of all essential nutrients required by the plant and the plants derives its nutrition from that media itself.The nutrients required by plants in larger quantities are called as macronutrients.Nitrogen,phosphorus,calcium potassium,sulphur,magnesium fall into this category.While,the nutrients required by plants in lesser amounts are known as micronutrients.Eg;iron,zinc,molybdenum,boron,copper,manganese.

Here's  a list of some of the most common nutrient deficiency symptoms in plants:

  • Yellowing of leaves
  • Stunted roots
  • Twisted leaves
  • Yield differences
  • Holes in leaves 
  • Crop failure

Now,how to actually identify and distinguish a particular nutrient deficiency from others,and get it treated?

Here's a list of symptoms and remedies to various macronutrient deficiencies in plants:

1. Nitrogen deficiency in plants

A nitrogen deficiency can manifest in many ways in plants.So,here are some nitrogen deficiency symptoms in plants

  • Yellowing of lower leaves
  • Pale green leaves at the top of the plant
  • Stunted growth resulting in weaker shoots

These were some of the most common deficiency symptoms of nitrogen in plants.


Nitrogen deficiency occurs primarily because of imbalanced pH of soil,soil depletion and also,if you have frequent rains in your area,then nitrogen can get washed away as it is water soluble,consequently making the soil nitrogen deficient.


For a quicker solution, you can try using a nitrogen-specific nutrient additive - remember to choose the right option for your growing medium. In addition, for soil-based plants, mulching with organic matter, such as compost or manure, can lead to a steady supply of nitrogen in the long term.

2. Phosphorus deficiency in plants

Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency in plants include:

Older leaves get affected by phosphorus deficiency first as the plant moves its potassium to growing tissues first by virtue of which you will observe deficiency symptoms of phosphorus in older leaves first. With leaves taking on a dark green colour that may be tinged with purple, bronze or red. Growth is stunted; if the deficiency is left untreated, leaves can develop brown spots and necrosis(death of cell)


  • Incorrect pH or nutrient imbalance
  • Extreme cold can also affect phosphorus uptake
  • Having excess iron in growth medium


Try a phosphorus-rich additive, like superphosphate. You can also consider options like bone meal or phosphate rock. Just remember to choose the correct product for your growing medium.

3. Potassium deficiency in plants

Deficiency symptoms of potassium in plants include:

  • Brown/burnt looking leaf edges
  • Chlorosis between leaf veins
  • Purple spots on the underside of leaves
  • Slow growth

Causes of Potassium deficiency in plants are:

  • Incorrect pH
  • Potassium deficiency is more common in sandy/chalky soils as it can get leached out 

So,How to fix it?

In order to fix a potassium deficiency, you can try potassium-rich additives such as sulphate of potash, tomato feed or organic sources, such as seaweed or kelp treatments 


Remember to choose the right product for your growing medium. It's also worth keeping in mind that some of these solutions may alter your pH thereby resulting in further issues.

4. Magnesium deficiency in plants

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency in plants include:

The lower, older leaves appear to be chlorotic between their leaf veins, where the leaf becomes pale while the leaf veins remain green.If left untreated,it results in stunted growth and some parts of your plant may even get necrosed.Some plants are more susceptible to a magnesium deficiency these include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries and Rhododendrons

Magnesium deficiency in cotton will appear first on the lower leaves where green leaves turn purple.The plants becomes stunted and its yield is reduced.


Magnesium easily leaves out of light soil if there is heavy rainfall.However,the possible causes of magnesium deficiency are:

  • Heavy rainfall
  • Light sandy soil
  • Potassium rich soil (plants take up potassium instead of magnesium)
  • Infrequent fertilisation
  • Cold,wet environments


To correct a magnesium deficiency, try applying a foliar spray. In theory, a foliar spray can take effect quickly, as plants can absorb nutrients through their leaves faster than through their roots and stem.

Options such as  dolomite or another magnesium-rich additive can also be tried,keeping in mind that some products may result in pH disturbance.

5. Calcium deficiency in plants

Calcium deficiency symptoms in plants include:

New growth looks stunted as calcium deficiency in plants occurs in younger leaves first as it does not get redistributed to growing tissues.Tip burn is also commonly observed.In tomatoes and peppers, a calcium deficiency results in blossom end rot, where the fruit has a dark spot at the bottom.

A calcium deficiency has many causes like:

  • Root zone pH being too high or too low
  • Inappropriate watering
  • Nutrient imbalance in growing media

Remedy to combat calcium deficiency in plants:

Ensure that you're using a water-soluble calcium source, like calcium nitrate. In soil, you may opt to apply calcium sources like lime, bone meal or gypsum, but be aware that these can alter your pH or add additional nutrients along with calcium.

6. Sulphur deficiency in plants

Sulphur deficiency in plants appears at the top of the plant,in the newer leaves resulting in chlorotic appearance.Growth is also stunted and in some plants,leaf stems may also get a purple tint.Sulphur deficiency appear similar to nitrogen deficiency hence,its important to note  from where the yellowing of leaves starts!


The most common causes of sulphur deficiency are:incorrect pH and nutrient imbalance.

Remedy :

You can opt for diluted Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) in a foliar spray. While for those growing in soil, you can treat a sulphur deficiency with organic options, although it will take time for these to break down into the sulphates needed by your plants.

Now comes the turn of micronutrients,as mentioned before,they are required by plants in smaller amounts but that doesn't imply that micronutrient deficiency in plants does not exist.

Here's a list if some micronutrient deficiencies in plants:

1. Zinc deficiency in plants

Zinc deficiency symptoms in plants,just like few other micronutrient deficiencies, occur in newer leaves.Intravenous chlorosis,necrotic spots smaller in size,can also be observed.Shorter internodes may result in rosette appearance.Zinc helps your plants to produce chlorophyll, enzymes, sugars and proteins.

However,this can be cured by:

Applying spray of zinc sulphate or zinc chelate directly to the affected leaves.If you are using a growing medium consider using a zinc chelate-rich additive, as this is the form of zinc most readily available to your plants. 

2. Iron deficiency in plants

Iron deficiency symptoms in plants include:

Yellowing of younger leaves but the veins remain darker,it is also called as interveinal chlorosis.Dying of shoots can also be observed. Iron deficiency can be caused by a nutrient imbalance, a root zone pH that's too high or low as well as over- or underwatering if you're growing in soil.It may also occur when there's an excess of manganese, copper or zinc, as this can impact iron uptake by the plant.

 However,this can be cured by:

For a long term solution, the solution can be to have an additive that has iron chelate compounds, as this is the plant-available form of iron and ensures the best chance of uptake.

3. Boron deficiency in plants

A plant showing stunted and deformed growth is one of the most common representations of a boron deficiency. As a boron deficiency progresses,the older leaves look dark green and glossy, while new growth will be brittle or leathery to the touch,newer leaves may also take on a rust-like appearance.Functions of boron in plants include:water management and transportation of carbohydrates it also plays a role in cell expansion and in vegetative and reproductive stages of the plant as well.

However,it can be cured by using borax or boric acid as a foliar spray.

About Urja Seeds

At Urja Seeds,we totally abide to our mantra of selling high yielding seeds online like vegetable seeds, flower seeds, exotic seeds and micro green seeds for our customers.We also provide instructions regarding the variety of the seed that is being sold and we have a helpline service as well.Were you can get expert advice regarding any issue you are facing with your plants it includes nutrient deficiency remedies and several other issues as well.


Q1) How to differentiate between sulphur and nitrogen deficiency?    

Ans: Sulphur deficiency is accompanied by a vibrant and uniform yellowing, while nitrogen deficiency symptoms display a lighter, bleached yellowing that is more pronounced on the lower leaves.

Q2)  How long does it take for a plant to recuperate from nutrient deficiency? 

Ans: Deficient plants usually recover in about a week, but the most-affected leaves do not recover.

Also Read

Why are all my vegetable plants turning yellow?

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