Deficiency Symptoms in Plants

Deficiency symptoms in plants are not only caused by pests or diseases but also lack of essential elements. The deficiency symptoms of essential elements can be seen in various ways in plants. 

There is a mix of nutrients required by plants to grow and remain healthy. The nutrients that are needed in large quantities are called macronutrients. Macronutrients for plants are potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and sulphur.

Conversely, nutrients that are required in smaller quantities are called micronutrients. The micronutrients are copper, boron, iron, manganese, zinc and molybdenum.

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Do You Know?

The most effective way to grow healthy plants is to improve the quality of the soil by adding compost or well-rotted manure. Spreading organic mulches around plants also enhances the quality of soil to a great extent. Nutritional problems can be addressed by keeping the soil depth at around 50 mm. 

Deficiency Symptoms for Macronutrients 

  1. Nitrogen 

Protein is crucial for all living organisms as it leads to growth and development. Nitrogen is one of the significant elements in protein and contributes to approximately 1% to 6% of plant dry matter. The deficiency of nitrogen is seen in the overall growth and development of plants. Stems become yellow and spindly and yellow colouring of leaves become noticeable.

  1. Calcium 

Calcium is vital for cellular signalling and cell wall structure. The deficiency of calcium impacts the young leaves and growth points of plants. New leaves become hook shaped or look distorted. Black spots may appear around mid-leaf and growth is substantially stunted. 

  1. Magnesium 

Magnesium is the core element of chlorophyll and also crucial for plant metabolism and transportation of carbohydrate along the plant body. New growth is found to be yellow with dark spots. 

  1. Potassium 

For starch formation, movement of sugar and pH stabilisation, potassium is needed. Lack of potassium leads to sudden development of necrotic tissues across the leaf margins. Eventually, the leaves will appear to be scorched. It may also curl downwards. 

  1. Phosphorus

Energy in plants in the form of Adenosine triphosphate requires phosphorus for photosynthesis and respiration in plants. If a plant has a deficiency of phosphorus, the small leaves may become reddish-purple, and the older leaves can become black.

  1. Sulphur

Sulphur is needed for protein synthesis as it is essential for amino acids. Sulphur deficiency results in chlorosis of light greenish-yellow pigmentation. It usually happens in young leaves. 

Deficiency Symptoms for Micronutrients 

  1. Copper

Poor root and stem growth can be seen. Leaves may curl, become limp or drop. 

  1. Boron 

Terminal buds may die along with poor growth of the plant body. 

  1. Manganese

Shoots, leaves and fruits diminish in size, and younger leaves turn pale yellow.

  1. Molybdenum 

Leaves become narrow and distorted with older leaves turning yellow. 

  1. Zinc 

Veinal chlorosis and necrosis take place along with purple pigmentation in some cases.  

Test Your Knowledge 

i. Which of the following comprise the elements that help to complete the lifecycle of plants?

(a) Essential elements. 

(b) Non-essential elements. 

(c) Macro element.

(d) Micro element.

ii. Who had put forward the concept of essential mineral nutrients required by plants?

(a) Carl Linnaeus.

(b) Arnon and Stout. 

(c) Aristotle.

(d) Leonhart Fuchs. 

[Solutions]

i. (a) Essential elements.

ii. (b) Arnon and Stout.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are Deficiency Symptoms in Plants?

Ans. Deficiency symptoms in plants are signs of insufficient nutrition that are required by the plant body. Such deficiencies may be categorised into chlorosis, interveinal chlorosis, stunted growth, purplish-red colouring and necrosis. 

2. What are Deficiency Symptoms of Nitrogen in Plants?

Ans. The most common symptom of nitrogen in plants is yellowing of older leaves. The remaining foliage may remain light green, and the stems become spindly. 

3. What is Mineral Deficiency in Plants?

Ans. Mineral deficiency in plants is the lack of essential minerals and other micronutrients such as iron, zinc and magnesium deficiency.