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Be alert for signs of nutrient deficiencies

Now is a good time of year to look for unusual symptoms in your crops that could indicate possible nutrient deficiencies. As Mark Conyers’ says, “Sometimes the best fertiliser is the shadow of the farmer”, so keep your eyes open while going around your crops.

Things like poor growth or unusual patterns of colour might be clues to an underlying problem. Is the unusual pattern of colour widespread, in windrows, between windrows or in small patches, on the high or low parts of the paddock? Is it on older or younger leaves? Is it along the leaf, at the tip or mid-way along the leaf? Visual assessment together with a tissue test greatly assists plant nutritionists in diagnosing nutrient deficiencies.

Strips in a wheat paddock in Victoria showing K deficiency (strips correspond to canola windrows from previous season)


The recent eXtensionAUS Crop Nutrition Spotlight identified a range of good nutrient deficiency apps that can help with visual symptoms.

Apart from the major nutrients of nitrogen and phosphorus, deficiencies of other nutrients may show up at this time of year. Already this season there have been these recent examples:

  • – In southern NSW near Temora Sergio Moroni found copper deficiency

  • – In South Australia Nigel Wilhelm found zinc deficiency in the Mallee
  • – Rob Norton has reported potassium deficiency in Victoria


If you notice something unusual in your crop, talk to a reputable advisor.

Want to know more?

Potassium deficiencies on the rise-article from GRDC Groundcover.


Prepared by Luke Beange, NSW DPI with techinical input from Mark Conyers and Rob Norton, IPNI.

Photo courtesy of IPNI.

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