How To Spot And Solve Nutrient Deficiency In Your Hydroponics System
Nutrient deficiency is going to be one of the main factors that will affect the growth appearance and the taste of your plant. It is very important to understand what it is basically what you are having is a plant is not getting enough of a certain nutrient. It will display symptoms be it banal chlorosis enter van or chlorosis necrosis anything like that. That will give you a clue as to what is lacking in your plants' diet common deficiencies that you will see within your plants.
Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium are the three major macronutrients, they're the big players when it comes to planting health. So nitrogen phosphorus and potassium will be very common nutrient deficiencies that you will see they will tend to show themselves very quickly within the plant. Another common subset that you will see nutrient deficiencies intend to be a group of micronutrients calcium magnesium and iron Tensho nutrient deficiencies especially in hydroponics. Plants require a certain level of nutrients which we measure as EC. This level of nutrients is very important as well as the ratio of nutrients to one another.
For example, the ratio of nitrogen phosphorus can make a big difference if you're trying to grow a green crop but you're using a fruiting or flowering fertilizer which will have a high phosphorous to nitrogen ratio. You're probably going to see nitrogen deficiency so for example if we have too much of nutrient A on hand in the solution. Nutrient B can become locked out based on chemical reasons certain reactions that will happen within your solution that will either convert nutrient B to A different chemical format or sit to precipitate out of solution which makes it unavailable to your plant.
How do you tell if your plant has a nutrient deficiency, fortunately, each and every nutrient that a plant requires has a specific function in relation to the plant's metabolism and growth processes. So if it is deficient these systems within the plant will begin to suffer and will display outward symptoms that you can recognize as long as you have the education to do. So often the effect that a nutrient deficiency has on these metabolic and growth processes within the plant will display a physical symptom. Some of these symptoms that you need to keep an eye out for are chlorosis which is yellowing of the foliage. You also have necrosis which is foliage depth.
So either drive around crispy foliage or mushy black rotten foliage in addition to chlorosis and necrosis. You need to be on the lookout for various factors such as where these are occurring versus new growth is that old growth does it affect the middle of the leaf doesn't start at the tip of the leaf and move backward. You will also see combinations of necrosis with chlorosis you may see a necrotic ring surrounded by chlorosis.
You may see a Berkley tip that fades to chlorotic tissue past that plant nutrients are either known as mobile or mobile within the plant so a mobile nutrient is a nutrient which the plant can actually physically move through itself when it experiences a deficiency. So mobile nutrients will be moved by the plant from older growth slower growth on the plant to newer growth at the growing point. This is basically a survival mechanism and it keeps the growing point of the plants alive. Nutrients which are immobile within the plant as you can imagine the plant cannot move them around. So the first place that you will see deficiencies from an immobile nutrient is on the new fresh growth.
How To Treat Deficiencies
It's always best to have a good nutrient deficiency diagnosis team which will give you a breakdown where you can look at a symptom. And it will say go air B and it'll eventually lead you on that tree to what is deficient in your plant. If you are unsure it is always best to consult with your local County Extension agents they will have great knowledge to help you out with nutrient deficiencies. It is best to avoid Google on this one unless it is from a peer-reviewed source usually from a university otherwise doodle image searches. Who knows what you'll come up with you may wind up with very wrong information on your nutrient deficiency.
Once you have found out what specifically is deficient within your crop. The first short-term step is to treat it by supplementing with that nutrient that is lacking. This can be done in a number of ways by increasing the level of that in your nutrient reservoir. You can pull your feed with many of these nutrients although you must be very careful with foliar feeding follow the manufacturer's recommendations on your nutrient supplements there. If you do not if you mix it too high of a concentration.
You can burn your plants really badly and possibly lose your entire crop long-term solutions to fixing nutrient problems involve either changing your nutrient mix switching to a new supplier or making regular supplements for this nutrient. For example, we commonly see iron deficiencies in our system because we run UV filtration UV filtration causes the iron to precipitate out of solution. So we add iron on a regular schedule weekly basis best to use a calendar and keep it regular.
When your plant is experiencing a nutrient deficiency it is sick but it is not dying you can bring it back to good health. And when you diagnose and begin to treat this deficiency you won't see proper healthy growth on that tissue where you notice deficiency a lot of times. You will still see that leaf will be ugly it'll be burnt it'll be chlorotic but your new growth will flourish and it will be healthy.
Our common nutrient deficiencies are and some quick little diagnosis tips on the most common ones. The biggest player in plant growth is nitrogen. It is the green up nutrient it's what makes you have lush verdant growth and big strong plants it's the most important one. This is the key takeaway is to learn how to recognize nitrogen deficiency.
So for nitrogen deficiency, it is a mobile nutrient within the plant if you were paying attention earlier mobile means that the plant will move it from old growth to new growth under deficiency symptoms. Nitrogen will cause complete and total chlorosis of the leaf veins tissue between the veins all of that and it will typically start from the tip of the leaf on older growth and move backward and end. And start moving up the plant another common symptom with nitrogen deficiency is very stunted growth.
It will be much smaller than it should be for its age so we have an example right for nitrogen deficiency if you notice this leaf right here was an old leaf probably one of the first true leads on this lettuce plant. And you'll notice just about everything on this leaf the veins the surfaces in between belief veins are all chlorotic and yellow. So it starts with the oldest growth and move back from the tip of the leaf down all the way back and will eventually move up to leads above it.
But this is a classic example of what nitrogen deficiency looks like this is not the particularly best example. Because there also may be some magnesium deficiencies.
It is another very common one. It can be a little bit hard to diagnose and that it is typically not going to display outward symptoms very noticeably or very fast. Typically what you'll first see is a general overall stunted growth and the plant is just lacking in health. But you're not going to notice those nitrogen deficiency symptoms unless it is also deficient in nitrogen as well another common symptom of phosphorus deficiency. That will occur in a little bit more advanced of deficiencies in plants is that lead will begin to turn a little bit darker or purple in certain instances.
This is not true, phosphorus deficiency this is supposed to be a purple plant. But we are using it as an example in this situation of that darkened coloration and stunted growth with a phosphorus deficiency. So you will see purple or a little bit of red sometimes dark or bronzing of the leaves and bear in mind when diagnosing phosphorus deficiency that yes indeed some plants are supposed to be purple or supposed to be red. It's not always a great end indicator. This is the time where you really need to know your plant variety before you go in and try and diagnose.
The last of the big 3 4 plant nutrient deficiencies is potassium, it will exhibit somewhat similar to phosphorus in that. It won't be outwardly visible it'll be a little bit sneaky. At first in the early stages of deficiency, you will just kind of notice the plant will overall be lacking in health a little bit stunted as your potassium deficiency progresses. It will begin to show a little bit of chlorosis starting on the leaf margin right around the edge of the leaf and unlike nitrogen instead of moving back in towards the middle of the leaf. And a v-shaped taking out the entire leaf calcium will tend to stay concentrated right around that margin. And it will move from the tip all the way out along the edge the back of the leaf and will leave the middle portion of the leaf typically untouched.
Sometimes you will see a bit of necrosis as well along with that chlorotic tissue along the margin phosphorus and potassium much like nitrogen are also mobile nutrients. Which means that the plant will move those nutrients from the old growth to the new growth.
So you will see these deficiencies just like nitrogen on the older growth starting at the bottom of the plant and moving up the plants to newer tissues. These next three nutrient deficiencies are very common in hydroponics. These three nutrients are calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Magnesium is a very common deficiency in hydroponics. That is typically why we recommend if you are running a multi-part nutrient solution that you supplement in a little bit of magnesium sulfate just because they tend to go deficient in hydroponics. It's just something that plants tend to do so what magnesium does is it is also a mobile nutrient which means you will see your deficiency start on the older lower growth. First, it can look very strikingly similar to nitrogen deficiency. So what you will really begin to notice with magnesium deficiency is that the older leads will go chlorotic.
But this is what you would call intervene old corrosive so if you notice the veins are still green but the tissue in between the leaf veins is chlorotic. And the interesting thing with magnesium is it doesn't just turn yellow as it does with nitrogen and Flora's is caused by other nutrient deficiencies. Your plant tissue will turn almost completely white magnesium is also a great deficiency that you can supplement with foliar feeding. It will respond very quickly to this it is also one of those deficiencies that when you do correctly that old chlorotic growth is going to stay nasty and chlorotic looking.
The first example that we have of an immobile nutrient deficiency and this is a very common one is iron deficiency. A lot of times even if your nutrient solution has iron in it. It's probably not quite enough and this is due to a number of reasons. Some basil plants one of the reasons a lot of iron deficiency in basil is it is very iron inefficient. It just does not utilize this nutrient very well. But it is an immobilization see at the growing tips of each branch instead of the older leaf below it. It causes inter vanil chlorosis much like magnesium where the veins still stayed green. It is an iron inefficient plant it just doesn't move it very well.
Russian red kale is another big one that I've really noticed that just does not use iron very efficiently. Another reason you may see iron deficiencies in your system is if you are running a UV filtration system if you are you running UV filtration. Then what happens is that ultraviolet light causes a chemical reaction with that chelated iron in your solution. And it makes it precipitate out of solution. So basically it will become a solid again and sink to the bottom and it is in a plant in available form at that point. So the plants, the iron is still there in your solution but the plants just can't use it they can't take it up it's one of these odd situations. Because it's very common.
And we typically add iron once a week to our system when we do these additions we unplug our UV filtration system for a period of 24 to 36 hours. And that allows the plants to take up this iron that we've supplemented with another great way around it is foliar feeding. Iron is a great one to foliar spray with and it has very quick results and that bypasses the whole UV filtration loop of that system.
It is extremely common in hydroponics particularly if you are growing in indoor environments. There is a specific reason to that but before I get to it I will show you the deficiency symptoms to look out for calcium. So calcium is not a mobile nutrient within the plant so you are going to see this deficiency displayed typically on the newer growth of the plants and the older growth won't be affected quite. So much but calcium is a great one for showing necrosis and that is dead burnt crispy little leaf tissue out on the margin of belief.
It will start from the very tip of the leaf which many people will confuse with pit burn which is a symptom of adding too much nutrient or running your EC at too high of a number. So it is very easy to confuse with that but with health and efficiency, it will kind of tend to be splotchy along the margin. It won't start at the tip and then a little over there just kind of be random spots along the edge. So calcium is not a very mobile nutrient within the plants so the reasoning why you see calcium deficiency a lot in indoor environments or greenhouse environments.
Because you are highly skimping on your HVAC system you need a lot of airflows you need to maintain the appropriate temperature and you also need to control your humidity. If your airflow is low and you just don't have a lot of air moving past the leaf of the plant calcium will actually not move within the plant out to the growing tip of the leaf. So since it's not moving there it is deficient there the more airflow you get past belief the more your plant is going to respirate the more.
It's going to move liquid within its xylem and phloem in the plant tissues. So it's going to carry it out to that growing tip when you have better airflow past it another common problem that will compound on this typically. If you don't have great airflow you're probably going to have high humidity. I recommend trying to control your humidity at very maximum of about 60% anywhere in the 40 to 60% range should be completely and totally fine for your plant growth getting higher than that number or much lower than that number will have adverse effects. And definitely being higher on that number will cause calcium deficiencies like this one.
And another key component of it is that lettuce is a cool weather crop so in the summertime when you see that HVAC systems are having a really hard time keeping up in your grow room. Then you're not getting adequate airflow you're not getting adequate dehumidification. These are really times of the year when you will see huge calcium deficiencies. And lettuce is one of the biggest crops to display these calcium deficiencies. It can be such a big difference that we have noticed within rooms for ventilation.