Problem Solving

Problem Solving

Indentifying Plant Deficiencies

Hydroponic gardening's popularity has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, especially in North America.

The correct diagnosis of nutritional deficiencies is important in maintaining optimum plant growth. The recognition of these symptoms allows growers to fine tune their nutritional regime as well as minimize stress conditions. However, the symptoms expressed are often dependent on the species of plant growth, stage of growth or other controlling factors. Therefore, growers should become familiar with nutritional deficiencies on a crop-by-crop basis.

What To Do About Them

Record keeping and photographs are excellent tools for assisting in the diagnosis of nutrient deficiencies. Photographs allow growers to compare symptoms to previous situations in a step-by-step approach to problem solving. Accurate records help in establishing trends as well as responses to corrective treatments.

You will find pictures and brief descriptions of some of the most common deficiencies in the plant world. Should you not find the picture that resembles one of these deficiencies, check our plant disease page as it could be a disease.

Nitrogen (N)
Restricted growth of tops and roots especially lateral shoots. Plants become spindly with general chlorosis of entire plant to a light green and then a yellowing of older leaves which proceeds toward younger leaves. Older leaves defoliate early.
Phosphorous (P)
Restricted and spindly growth similar to that of nitrogen deficiency. Leaf color is usually a dull dark green to a bluish green with purpling of petioles and the veins on underside of younger leaves. Younger leaves may be yellowish green with purple veins with "N" deficiency and darker green with "P" deficiency. Otherwise, "N" and "P" deficiencies are very much alike.

Potassium (K)
Older leaves show interveinal chlorosis and marginal necrotic spots, or scorching, which progresses inward and also upward toward younger leaves as deficiency becomes more severe.
Calcium (Ca)
From slight chlorosis to brown to black scorching of new leaf tips and die- back of growing points. The scorched and die-back portion of tissue is very slow to dry so that it does not crumble easily. Boron deficiency also causes scorching of new leaf tips and die-back of growing points, but calcium deficiency does not promote the growth of lateral shoots and short internodes as does boron deficiency.

Magnesium (Mg)
Interveinal chlorotic mottling or marbling of the older leaves which proceeds toward the younger leaves as the deficiency becomes more severe. The chlorotic Interveinal yellow patches usually occur toward the center of leaf with the margins being the last to turn yellow. In some crops, the interveinal yellow patches are followed by necrotic spots or patches and marginal scorching of the leaves.
Boron (B)
Slight chlorosis to brown to black scorching of new leaf tips and die- back of the growing points similar to calcium deficiency. Also, the brown and black die- back tissue is very slow to dry so that it can be crumbled easily. Both the pith and epidermis of stems may be affected as exhibited by hollow stems to roughened and cracked stems.
Sulfur (S)
Resembles nitrogen deficiency in that older leaves become yellowish green and the stems thin, hard and woody. Some plants show colorful orange and red tints rather than yellowing. The stems, although hard and woody, increase in length but not in diameter.
Iron (Fe)
Starts with interveinal chlorotic mottling of immature leaves, and in severe cases, the new leaves become completely lacking in chlorophyll, but with little or no necrotic spots. The chlorotic mottling on immature leaves may start first near the bases of the leaflets so that in effect the middle of the leaf appears to have a yellow streak.
Manganese (Mn)
Starts with interveinal chlorotic mottling of immature leaves, and in many plants it is indistinguishable from that of iron. On fruiting plants, the blossom buds often do not fully develop and turn yellow or abort. As the deficiency becomes more severe, the new growth becomes completely yellow, but in contrast to iron, necrotic spots usually appear in the interveinal tissue.

Zinc (Zn)
In some plants, the interveinal chlorotic mottling first appears on the older leaves, and in others it appears on the immature leaves. It eventually affects the growing points of all plants. The interveinal chlorotic mottling may be the same as that for iron and manganese, except for the development of exceptionally small leaves. When zinc deficiency onset is sudden, such as zinc left out of the nutrient solution, the chlorosis can appear identical to that of iron and manganese without the little leaf.

Copper (Cu)
Leaves at top of the plant wilt easily followed by chlorotic and necrotic areas in the leaves. Leaves on the top half of the plant may show unusual puckering with veinal chlorosis. Absence of a knot on the leaf where petiole joins the main stem of plant, beginning about 10 or more leaves below growing point.
Molybdenum (Mo)
These deficiency symptoms in legumes are mainly exhibited as nitrogen-deficiency symptoms because of the primary role of molybdenum in nitrogen fixation. Unlike the other micronutrients, molybdenum-deficiency symptoms are not confined mainly to the youngest leaves because molybdenum is mobile in plants. The characteristic molybdenum deficiency symptom in some vegetable crops is irregular leaf blade formation, known as whiptail, but interveinal mottling and marginal chlorosis of older leaves also have been observed.

Indentifying Plant Diseases

Hydroponic gardening's popularity has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, especially in North America.

Plant diseases or blights in a hydroponics garden are much less frequent than in a dirt garden because there is no dirt to grow bacteria. Not to mention the fact that many plant diseases travel to the plant from the surrounding soil. Plant disease cannot occur without a host plant, a pathogen, and favorable environmental conditions.

Plants can be more susceptible to disease if weakened by environmental conditions such as too much shade, high humidity and crowded conditions. They are also more susceptible when weakened by nutrient deficiency or toxicity (too many nutrients) and poor pH.

There will always be some trouble with disease, just watch for it and take care of it immediately.Unfortunately, many disease cures involve the use of harsh chemicals which you really do not want on your plants. A hydroponics garden can easily collect such chemicals in the nutrient solution with indiscriminant use and get into the plant cells - not something you want.

What To Do About Them

Try some less harsh solution first. Our favorite all-purpose cure is to mix water, baking soda, lemon juice and a very little dish detergent. Put this in a spray bottle and mist the affected parts of the plant. If you mix and use this recipe, make sure you cover all areas open to your nutrient solution or the dish detergent will get into it causing soap bubbles.

Powdery Mildew
Description: Fungus causing whitish spots on the underside of the leaves. Eventually the leaves shrivel and die. Thrives in high humidity.

Treatment: Spray with homemade all purpose cure described earlier.

Root Rot
Description: Fungus rots a plants roots.

Treatment: Cut away rotted root portions and spray with a fungicide.

Early Blight
Description: Dark brown spots on leaves, stems and plant fruit seriously weakening the plant.

Treatment: Treat with harsh chemicals (maneb, zineb).

Black Mold
Description: Sooty black or grayish white leaf growth.

Treatment: Gently wash leaves and scrape off mold.

Description: Fungus caused by over watering where leaves become marked with dark smears and shrivel. Hardly ever occurs in hydroponics plants

Treatment: Spray with fungicide and remove damaged leaves.
Damping Off
Description: A fungus affecting small plants where stems meet soil causing them to fall over and die.

Treatment: Remove diseased sections. If it has affected a significant number of plants, replant in new soil and clean containers.
Description: Grayish white, fuzzy leaf growth caused by inadequate ventilation. Not common in hydroponics gardens.

Treatment: Increase ventilation and remove affected
Description: Slightly raised, powdery red pustules on the underside of the leaves causing them to turn yellow then brown and die. Helped along by high humidity. Very contagious.

Treatment: Apply harsh chemicals like zineb or maneb.
Club Root
Description: Roots turn into a mass of club shaped tubers. Plants may become stunted.

Treatment: Dust with fungicide

Crown and Stem Rot
Description: Fungus causes plant to turn pulpy and rot.

Treatment: Cut away rotted plant portions and spray with a fungicide.

Hydroponics - Preventive Measures

Hydroponic gardening's popularity has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, especially in North America.

Think Ahead, Stay Ahead...

Unfortunately, even in a controlled environment there can still be a problem with deficiencies. Fortunately there are ways to overcome these deficiencies with the proper use of certain products. Below are a few things you can do to help prevent deficiencies. For more tips and ideas please contact us and one of our knowledgeable staff members will be able to help you.

Nutrients, on the other hand, can get a little tricky, especially if you're trying to mimic the natural nutrient intake that a plant gets in a hydroponic system. Hydroponics vegetable gardening nutrients are amongst the hardest parts of a system to choose, because they need to be"optimized" for the particular plants that you're growing.

One of the best ways to prevent problems before they happen is to talk to knowledgeable people that understand hydroponics. We can explain all of the do's and don'ts before you start, thus giving your plants a better chance to succeed and prevent any unnecessary problems.

Monitor pH Levels: There are lots of things that can cause a hydroponic nutrient solution to drift outside of the ideal range of about 5.5 - 6.5. Usually, if a nutrient solution is left unmonitored for too long, it can start drifting outside of this range because of bacterial populations. Aerated water at good temperatures (71 degrees or below) will increase in aerobic bacteria, and pH goes up. Even though the pH needs to be adjusted, aerobic bacteria are good for plants. If water temperatures get too warm, anaerobic bacteria will cause pH to drop. Anaerobic bacteria are the microbes that cause root rot.

Since pH levels can change very rapidly, it is important to check your pH level daily. The longer your nutrient solution spends outside of this ideal range, the greater the chance that your flowers or vegetables will suffer a plant deficiency. Use a pharmaceutical grade pH adjustment product designed specifically for hydroponics to make the necessary adjustments.

» Keep Temperature Levels Stable: Your nutrient solution should be fairly cool to temperate, somewhere in the range of sixty six to seventy one degrees Fahrenheit. You should be particularly aware of this if you happen to live in an unusually warm or cold part of the world. If you feel it is necessary to prevent plant deficiency, take extra steps to insulate your grow room against outside elements. You should also try placing your reservoir directly on the floor, as the floor can be very cool, which can keep the reservoir cool in a warm grow room.

» Use Supplements: The most common deficiencies can be cured by adding a Calcium Magnesium supplement and an organic micronutrient supplement such as seaweed extract.

There are several additional products that can increase the availability of nutrients for your plants. Beneficial Bacteria are extremely important to keep roots healthy and clean. Beneficial Fungus will increase root growth. Enzymes clear out any dead root cells. All three of those biological additives can assist in breaking down nutrients for easier uptake by the roots and ensure a large, healthy root zone. Large roots have an easier time absorbing nutrients.

Humic Acid, Fulvic Acid, and B Vitamins can all increase plant metabolism and/or nutrient uptake.

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