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Nutrient deficiency symptoms and their management in Maize

Major Nutrients


SYMPTOMS: Yellow coloration in a 'V' shaped pattern  

  1. progresses from leaf end to leaf collar
  2. progresses from lower to upper leaves


  1. under-application of N fertilizer needs
  2. underestimation of N release in manure
  3. leaching of nitrate (rainfall/irrigation)
  4. loss of N as a gas in soils  with history of standing water or in compacted sites

Remedies :  

  1. appropriate fertilizer N application according to soil test recommendations.
  2. analyze applied manure for N content, and provide proper N credit from the manure.
  3. apply irrigation level appropriate for soil, avoid long-term ponding or standing water (> 12 hours)
  4. install drainage tiles in heavier textured soils and /or minimize field compaction by reducing field trips in spring and fall, and drive in same wheel tracks.


symptom:  Purple coloration of lower leaves


  1. under-application of P fertilizer needs
  2. cooler/wetter weather which influence the soil temperature (environmentally induced) and reduces movement of P from soil to plant root.
  3. inherited tendency of some hybrids


  1. apply fertilizer P as a 'starter' application at the 20-30 lbs.P2O5 /a rate and according to soil test recommendations.
  2. if the soil is a heavier texture, avoid planting at  the earlier part of the appropriate range of  planting dates (warmer weather can correct   symptoms).


SYMPTOMS:pattern generally found in younger leaves


  1. under-application of S fertilizer needs
  2. reduced mineralization of organic -S to sulfate-S because of reduced soil temperatures or lower soil organic matter levels :
  3. fields with eroded knolls and hillsides have lower organic matter than rest of the field
  4. mineralization of organic-S to sulfate-S in fields under no-till cultivation is reduced compared to cultivated fields


  1. apply appropriate fertilizer S levels after soil testing
  2. analyze soil organic matter content (deficiencies are generally found in no-till soils with organic matter content of <2.5%)
  3. Apply fertilizer in sulfate form as ammonium sulfate or ammonium thiosulfate . Elemental S may take several years to increase sulfate-S levels.


SYMPTOMS:  yellow and brown colouration of leaf

  • occurs first on lower leaves
  • may progress to upper leaves


  1. under-application of K fertilizer needs
  2. cooler/wetter weather (environmentally induced)
  3. planted K inefficient hybrids


  1. apply an appropriate fertilizer K rate according to the soil test recommendation.
  2. If the soil is a heavier texture, wait to plant at the latter part of the appropriate range of planting dates. (warmer weather can correct symptoms).
  3. identify and plant K efficient hybrids



  • occurs in upper leaves
  • occurs in leaf middle, may progressing outward


  1. under-application of Zn fertilizer needs
  2. soil has high pH (>7.5)


apply appropriate Zn fertilizer as Zn-sulfate needs as starter fertilizer according to soil test recommendations. Applications of Zn-Chelates are not recommended due to high cost. Also avoid purchasing Zn-frits since this material if not very soluble.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.