Identifying Nutrient Deficiencies

At first glance, nutrient deficiencies may be hard to identify. But there are clues you may use to figure out potential problems.

For example, a nutrient deficiency may show up on a leaf as yellowing or discoloration.

One clue is to look for where the nutrient deficiency occurs. Is it in the lower, older leaves? Does it occur on the upper, newer leaves? Or, is the entire plant affected?

To ID a nutrient deficiency, it may be helpful to:

  1. Start by looking for where the deficiency occurs.
  2. Use the following resources to narrow down the potential deficiency.
  3. Check EDIS and other UF/IFAS web-based resources for information on how to correct the nutrient deficiency with an appropriate fertilizer.

Some of my favorite resources that help with identifying nutrient deficiencies include:

Using these sites, you can practice identifying nutrient deficiencies in your garden and your neighborhood. They are great online resources to bookmark on your computer for future use.

One good thing about learning to ID nutrient deficiencies is that you can determine whether the problem is a nutrient deficiency. If it’s not a deficiency, you may consider disease, growing conditions, irrigation, and pests as potential causes of the problems you see.

In integrated pest management (IPM), the 1st step is to properly ID the “pest.” If you can successfully ID the nutrient deficiency – or that it isn’t a nutrient deficiency – you can better match the control to the problem.

For example, a nutrient deficiency may be misdiagnosed as a pest problem (such as chinch bugs). If pesticides are applied to a nutrient deficiency, the problem isn’t solved and a product was used that wasn’t necessary, which could harm non-target organisms such as beneficial insects.

Correctly matching the problem to the “pest” limits negative environmental impacts, such as pollution, pesticide resistance, and harm to beneficial organisms and other wildlife.

If you’re stumped and need assistance with identifying nutrient deficiencies, contact your local county Extension office. Although the sites listed above may help you become a detective in your own landscape.


Posted: December 31, 2020


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