Plant Nutrition :: Mineral Nutrition



Table 1. Foliage plant malady symptoms and possible causal agents

Plant part affected and symptoms


Possible cause

Foliage `  


Chlorosis (general)


Low soil fertility
Excessively high light intensity
Excessively high temperatures

Chlorosis (younger leaves)


Inadequate supply of iron or manganese and possibly copper or zinc
Plants excluded from light for extended period phytotoxicity from pesticides

Chlorosis (older leaves)


Low nitrogen or potassium supply
High soil salinity
Over watering
Poorly aerated soil mix

Marginal chlorosis


Low magnesium and potassium supply (primarily lower leaves)
High soil salinity
Cold drifts (primarily lower leaves)
Spider mite feeding injury (primarily lower leaves)
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Interveinal chlorosis


Deficiency of iron or manganese (upper leaves affected first)
Spider mite feeding injury
Sulfur dioxide air pollution injury
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Veinal chlorosis


Injury from certain herbicides

Round chlorotic spots


Fungal or bacterial spots
Phytotoxicity from pesticide, fertilizer or pollutant

Irregular, chlorotic spots


Cold – water injury
Fungal or bacterial leaf spots
Virus or virus like infection
Phytotoxicity from pesticides, fertilizers, or pollutants.

Striped, chlorotic pattern not associated specifically with veins or interveinal areas


Feeding injury from spider mites, plant hoppers, leafhoppers, or trips

Mosaic, chlorotic pattern


Cold – water injury of some plants
Virus or virus like infection
Phtotoxicity from pesticides

Sectors of leaves that appear water soaked or have a greasy color


Early stages of high – temperature injury often associated with high light intensity or high temperatures which plants are subjected to when improperly handled during shipment.



Early stages of cold injury from either low air temperatures or very cold water dropping onto foliage



Certain foliar diseases caused bacterial or fungal pathogens 



Foliar nematodes in fleshy tissue



Early stages of phytotoxicity from improper use of pesticides or fertilizers

Necrosis of leaf margin or tip


Nutrient deficiency: potassium (lower leaves first)
Boron excess
High soil salinity
Fluoride phytotoxicity of susceptible plants
High temperature injury
Low temperature injury
Desiccation injury
Low relative humidity, particularly indoors
Spider mite feeding injury
Foliar bacterial diseases
Phytotoxicity from pesticides or fertilizers. 

Necrotic spots or sectors within the lamina


Cold – water injury
Leaf miner feeding injury
Leaf spot diseases fungal and bacterial
Foliar nematode feeding injury
Phytotoxicity from pesticides or fertilizers. 

Combination of marginal and internal necrotic areas


Sun scorch
Cold injury from low air temperatures or very cold water
Foliar diseases and injury from several foliar feeding pests
Air pollution injury
Phytotoxicity from pesticides or fertilizers 

Leaves abnormally large


Plants received a high level of nutrition
Plants grown under moderate to low light intensity
Stock plants not harvested frequently enough
Old specimens with large root system

Leaves abnormally small


Plants grown under low nutritional program
Lack of copper, which occurs first in new leaves and may be associated with some chlorosis
High soil Salinity
Plants grown under excessively high light intensity
Low light and low humidity.



Container-grown plants that become root-bound Root mealy bugs or nematodes
Root diseases
Phytotoxicity from certain pesticides Tarsonemid mite injury

Petiole (leaf stem too long


Low light intensity

Petiole very short


High Light intensity

Lamina (leaf blade long and narrow


Low light intensity

Lamina short


High light intensity

lamina very thin


High nitrogen nutrition Low light intensity 

Lamina extremely thick


Virus or virus like disease
Phytotoxicity form pesticide s
High light intensity
Tarsonemid mites

Splitting of lamina along margins


Mechanical injury to developing or fully expanded
Fluctuating moisture supply

Abnormally tight rosette pattern of new foliage


Injury from board mites, cyclamen mites, etc.

Loss of sinuses or holes in new foliage of split – leaf plants


Reduced light intensity, especially once the plants are placed indoors

Leaf margins notched


Mechanical injury
Injury from chewing insects
Phytotoxicity from pesticide sprays

Translucent – tunnel pattern in foliage


Leaf miner feeding injury

Holes in foliage


Mechanical injury



Feeding injury from caterpillars, snails, or slugs / Dead areas that drop from leaf after tissue is killed           by foliar pathogens
  Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Abnormally glossy leaf surface


Excessive amount of plant polish or plant shine
product applied to leaf surface

Solution dripping from edges of foliage that is otherwise dry


 Guttation : the loss of water from tiny holes that are present along the leaf margin Guttation occurs at night and early morning and is non injurious physiological process 

Defoliation of plant


High soil salinity
Plants moved from high to low light intensity Prolonged period in shipping container without
light or gas exchange
Chilling injury
Excessive desiccation between irrigation periods
Reduced humidity
Poor soil aeration
Injurious soil insects
Foliage injury from mite feeding
Parasitic nematodes
Root rot pathogens
Air pollution, especially elevated levels of ethelene Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Stems stunted


Lack of nutrient such as boron. or crop injury from certain mites, including broad mite and cyclamen mite
Phytotoxicity from pesticides
Insufficient light in growing area
Close plant spacing

Few lateral branches on plants that naturally branch freely


Insufficient light in growing area
Close plant spacing

Fascinated stems


Genetic Variation
Virus or virus like disorders
Herbicide injury

Basal stem rot or breakdown


High soil salinity
Slow-release fertilizer placed against stems
Excessive irrigation
Poorly drained soils
Fungus gnat infestation
Fungal pathogen infection
Bacterial pathogen infection
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Lesions or cankers on stem


Sun scald
Mechanical injury
Pest feeding injury
Fungal infection
Bacterial infection

Foliage and / or stems wilted


High soil salinity
High leaf temperature and cool soil Excessively high temperature
Insufficient water supply in soil
Low humidity
Cuttings or plants not rooted adequately Roots that developed outside of container were
Root mealybugs or parasitic nematodes Reduced root size from fungal root pathogens

Cracked leaf and / or surface


Mechanical injury

Etched or pitted leaf and / or surface


Excessively high temperature
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Thin cork layer (tan or brown), which develops on leaves and stems as spots or streaks


Thrips or false spider mite feeding injury
Certain plant pathogens
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Tip dieback or blight


Deficiency of calcium, copper. or boron Desiccation injury
Mites such as broad mite and cyclamen mite Fungal infection
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Epinasty of young shoot and leaves


Aphid feeding injury
Virus or virus like diseases
Phytotoxicity from pesticides, particularly some

Stems and leaves bent or oriented to one side


A phototropic response to side lighting

Bud and flower drop on some foliage plants with flowers


Temperature extremes
Plant moisture stress
Low humidity
Reduced root system from numerous causes
Mechanical injury
Ethylene injury
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Stems exceedingly thing weak, wide spacing between leaves


Excessive fertilizer
Inadequate light
Tight spacing of plants
Temperature too high

Stem thicker than normal and leaf spacing usually very close


High light intensity
Wide plant spacing
air turbulence

Unusual amount of red pigment


Phosphorus deficiency
Cool temperatures
Root rot pathogens
Nematodes or root mealy bugs

Development of a new color pattern


Segregation of vegetative tissues in a chimeral plant Mutation in meristematic region resulting in a Chimera

Loss of variegation


Excess fertilizer
Low light intensity in production or holding areas Excess photoperiod indoors
Leaf aging in some plants
Segregation of vegetative tissues in a chimeral plant

Small, translucent artifacts from living creatures


Molted skins or empty puga cases form certain insects or mites

Whitish to darker – colored residue on surface of plant


Calcium, magnesium, and sodium compounds found in some water supplies, which leave an objectional deposit on foliage
Some fertilizer materials that contribute to deposits
   on the foliage
   Residue from certain pesticides, particularly
   we table powder formulations of a given com­
pound are preferred for appearance when safe Airborne particulate material adhering to plant

Small inanimate bodies on


Fecal deposits from pests

Brown to rusty red film on foliage


High iron content in water used for overhead irrigation
Heavy false spider mite infestation

Fine webbing on leaf or between leaflets


Spider mites and a few other mite species


Roots very shallow; fail to penetrate deep into the soil


Excessive bottom heat
Soil kept too wet
Soil – mix texture very fine with few large pore spaces
Soil – mix compacted excessively
Soil infested with root – rotting fungi, parasitic nematodes, or other root – infesting pests 



Inadequate quantity of soil added to container at
time of potting
Soil washed out by splashing water
Excessive soil-mix shrinkage in certain mixes Poor soil aeration
Development of extensive root systems in some
species, which push the plants upward in the container

Root system slow to develop


Factors listed as causing the previous problem plus: High soil salinity
Soil temperature extremes
Plant potted too deep
Toxic components in soil mixture (e.g., certain
types of bark)
Phytotoxicity from pesticide drenches

Portions of exposed roots eaten


Snail or slug feeding damage

Roots rots


High soil salinity Soil kept too wet
Soil-mix texture very fine with few
Soil mix compacted excessively
Parasitic nematodes
Root-rot pathogens, usually fungi

Roots develop extensively through bottom of container


Plant container placed on moist medium that            supports root growth
Plant left in production area or retail display too long

Knots or swollen areas on roots


Root-knot nematode injury
Tuberous roots that develop naturally on some plant

Excessive root system tightly bound in containers


Plants not sold on schedule or not stepped up top a larger container

White or gray fuzzy masses on roots


Non injurious saprophytic fungi

Whole plant



Tissue torn or shed


Mechanical injury during growing, handling packing or shipping. 

Shrinkage of leaf, stem or root tissues


High soil salinity
Injurious soil insects
Parasitic nematodes
Fungal root rots
Phytotoxicity from pesticides

Reduced rate of growth without drastic changes in typical plant characteristics


  One or more essential elements in limited supply Excessive soil salinity
Soil pH extremes
Extremely low light levels, usually indoors Temperature extremes
Excessive soil moisture
Poor soil aeration
Poorly drained container
Low humidity
Seedling variation in some plants
Pot-bound root system
Presence of plant pathogens or other pests that affect the root system or vascular system
    Phytotoxicity from pesticides



Seed fail to germinate


Nonviable seeds
Seeds harvested prematurely
Seeds stored for excessive periods
Seeds stored at improper temperature or humidity High salinity of germination medium Germination medium dried during germination Destruction of seeds prior to emergence by rodents, insects, or plant pathogens
Insufficient time for germination Impermeable seed coat
Chemical inhibitors in seed
Germination medium temperature too low Poor soil aeration
High salinity of germination medium Fungal stem and root rot pathogens

Seedlings Damping – off


High salinity of germination medium
Fungal stem and root rot pathogens

Some seedlings are white


Genetic seedlings common to certain species

Correction of nutrient disorder

After having diagnosed a nutrient disorder, the next step is to correct it in order to improve crop production. Methods of correcting nutrient deficiencies or toxicities vary according to agro climatic regions, the socioeconomic situation of the region, the magnitude of the disorder, and the nutrient or element involved. Use of efficient or tolerant cultivars in combination with fertilizers or amendments may be the best solution for correcting nutrient disorders in field crops.

Soil testing, plant analyses, visual foliar symptoms and crop growth response are the most common guides to the fertilization of field crops. Among these diagnostic techniques visual symptoms are the least expensive, but soil analysis is widely used for soil fertility evaluation. Quantities of fertilizer and lime are determined on the basis of soil test calibration studies for each crop.

Table 2. Methods of correcting nutrient deficiencies

Nutrient / element

Corrective measures


Addition of organic matter to the soil; Application of N fertilizers, including legumes in the crop rotation; use of foliar spray of 0.25to 0.5% solution of urea.


Adjustment of extreme pH: application of phosphorus fertilizer


Application of potassium fertilizers, incorporation of crop residues


Liming of acid soils; addition of gypsum


Application of dolomite limestone; foliar application of 2% magnesium sulfate solution


Use of fertilizer salt containing sulfur such as ammonium sulfate and single super phosphate; application of gypsum or elemental sulfur


Addition of zinc sulfate to soil; foliar spray of 0.1to 0.5% solution of zinc sulfate


Foliar spray of 2% iron sulfate or 0.02 to 0.05% solution of iron chelate ; use of efficient cultivars


Soil application of boron or foliar spray of 0.1 to 0.25% solution of borax


Liming of acid soils, soil application of sodium or ammonium molybdate



Applications of lime; use of tolerant species or cultivars.

Table 3. Tolerance of plant foliage to Mineral nutrient sprays  


Formulation or salt

Kg per 400 L* of water


NH4 NO3, (NH4)2 HPO4,  (NH4)2 SO4
NH4Cl, NH4 PO4

3  - 5


H3PO4, others see N above



KNO3, K2,So4, KCI



CaCl2, Ca (NO3)2















Sodium borate



Sodium molybdate


* 400 L of solution is sufficient to spray on 1 ha of filed crop

In a given agro climatic region,one of the greatest values of tissue analysis is in the prevention of deficiencies rather than their correction after they appear.

Soil analysis, Plant analysis, and visual symptoms are all useful and complementary in nutritional diagnosis of crop plants. These techniques provide information for evaluating the nutrient status of the soil – plant environment and for establishing the basis for fertilizer and lime applications.

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