Small indoor growers often struggle with nutrient deficiency. While nutrients are small, their impact on an indoor farm is enormous. This article will explain the basics of nutrients, nutrient deficiencies, and how to spot and treat nutrient deficiencies.
What are nutrients?
We’ve all heard of nutrients for people, but nutrients for plants are a little different. Plants rely upon nutrient minerals. Nutrient minerals are elements that can be found on the periodic table. (e.g. nitrogen, iron, and magnesium.) These nutrients are taken up by the plant and turned into energy, byproduct, and happy plants.
What are nutrient deficiencies?
Nutrient deficiencies are the absence of the necessary mineral nutrients in a plant. These deficiencies manifest themselves as stunted plant growth, discoloration, and withering leaves. While plants suffering from nutrient deficiencies are in danger, the process can be reversed by supplementing the plants with missing elements.
Identifying nutrient deficiencies
Identifying nutrient deficiencies is difficult. Farmers need to be aware of the major plant nutrients to spot symptoms unique to each nutrient. We’ll get into specific nutrient deficiency symptoms later in this post, but generally speaking, there are a few major symptoms for which to watch:
Stunted plant growth
“Burned” leaves or leaf tips
Chlorosis (loss of green coloration)
Treating nutrient deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies are likely indicative of a larger problem in your farm. Certain deficiencies can actually create additional deficiencies in other nutrients by blocking the consumption of the nutrients by plants. The list of solutions to nutrient deficiencies is quite short:
Using specific formulations (e.g. magnesium sulphate or chelated iron) to augment those specific deficiencies.
Switching nutrient solutions
Know your nutrients
Plant nutrients are either mobile or immobile:
Mobile nutrient deficiencies occur first in older growth, then moves to new growth. This means the deficiency will first show symptoms in the parts of the plant that have already grown, like the first true leaves or the stem of the plant.
Immobile nutrient deficiencies occur in the younger growth. This means the deficiency will first show symptoms in the parts of the plant are newly growing.
A great method to help identify nutrient deficiencies is to understand which nutrients are mobile or immobile. The location of the deficiency can help you identify the nutrient deficiency responsible for your sick plant.
Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for healthy plants. Farmers should become experts at spotting nitrogen deficiencies. As a mobile nutrient, nitrogen deficiencies start in old growth and move to new growth. A typical symptom is total chlorosis (yellowing) starting from the beginning of the old leaves moving up the plant toward new growth and stunted growth.