Ottawa Valley Farm Show

Mar 12- Mar 14    |    Ottawa, Ontario

Learn More
Sustain your legacy graphic

Signs of Nutrient Deficiencies in Your Crops

Signs of Nutrient Deficiencies in Your Crops
Posted: July 31, 2023
Author: Kelsey Banks Source: Kelsey Banks

When you’re walking through a canola field, have you seen purpling of the leaves? When you’re walking through a wheat field, have you seen twirling, twisted tips that lack standability? These are both signs of a secondary macronutrient or micronutrient deficiency.


Macronutrients and micronutrients are essential for plant growth and development, and deficiencies in either can have detrimental effects on crop yield and quality. Macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are required by plants in large quantities and play crucial roles in plant metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Deficiencies in macronutrients can result in stunted growth, reduced yield, and poor quality. Micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, and manganese, are required in smaller quantities but are equally important for plant growth and development. Deficiencies in micronutrients can also lead to reduced growth and yield , as well as disease susceptibility. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that crops receive a adequate supply of both macronutrients and micronutrients to achieve optimal growth and yield.

It’s important to learn the signs of nutrient deficiency in your crops to ensure healthy, uniform growth from plant to harvest. See the chart below to learn the signs of specific nutrient deficiencies in your crops:

Nutrient Importance of Nutrient Signs of Deficiency Product Recommendation
Copper (Cu)
  • Standability
  • Cell wall strength (specifically in the anthers and pollen formation)
  • Chlorophyll production
  • Protein synthesis
  • Respiration
  • Wilted, twisting, bleaching (turning white) in the young new leaves
  • Tips of youngest leaves die and curl downward (rat tails); however lower leaves remain green
  • Limp stalks
  • Poor grain fill, deformed/shriveled kernels.
  • In the fall, the whole plant or stubble will discolour to an off-yellow or grey colour (Melanosis), often in patches
  • Ergot and melanosis in wheat and barley
Zinc (Zn)
  • Protein synthesis and structure
  • Hormone regulation
  • Early root development
  • Energy production
  • Seed formation
  • Yellow-brown, dead spots on older leaves
  • Poor root growth and development
  • Stunted plant growth and shortened internodes
  • Striping in cereals and corn (can be mistaken for leaf disease)
Boron (B)
  • Root growth
  • Cell division
  • Sugar translocation from leaves to fruit
  • Pollination and seed set
  • Stunting and distortion of the growing tip that can lead to tip death
  • Brittle foliage
  • Yellowing of lower leaf tips
  • Pod blanks
Manganese (Mn)
  • Photosynthesis
  • Root growth
  • Lignin synthesis (cell wall strength)
  • Slow growth
  • Pale green plant
  • Pale leaf veins
  • Yellow stripes in corn
  • Mottled brown spots
  • Both older and new leaves affected
Iron (Fe)
  • Plant respiration
  • Photosynthesis
  • Enzymes used by N-fixing bacteria in legume crops
  • New leaf growth is very yellow and can look almost white
  • Leaf veins are pale
  • Development of chronic lesions
Calcium (Ca - macronutrient)
  • Balance organic acids
  • Increases the plant structure
  • Helps enable N-fixing bacteria in legume plants
  • Stimulates development of roots and leaves
  • Stunted roots
  • Deformed leaves
  • Abnormal opening of the leaves
  • Chlorosis and leaf tip necrosis
Magnesium (Mg - macronutrient)
  • Photosynthesis & Chlorophyll synthesis
  • Enzyme activator
  • Disease response
  • Chlorosis showing on the older, lower leaves
  • Can be confused with other nutrients with similar symptoms
Sulphur (S - macronutrient)
  • Essential for protein synthesis in plants
  • Important role in physiology
  • Important to reduce stress from pests and the environment
  • Lower leaves become pale-yellow or light green
  • Plants are small with short, slender stalks
  • Slow growth
  • Maturity in cereals is delayed
  • Purpling of leaf edges
  • Leaf cupping

For more information on NexusBioAg’s micronutrient solutions, click here.

If you have questions about macro and micronutrients, please contact your local NexusBioAg representative.

Related Posts

Share on: