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Potassium Deficiency


Potassium Deficiency

In a Nutshell

  • Yellowing of leaves starts from margins.
  • Main veins remain dark green.
  • Curled leaves.
  • Stunted growth.


Symptoms are mainly visible on older leaves and start to develop on young leaves only in the case of severe deficiencies. Mild potassium deficiency is characterized by the development of mild yellowing at the margins and tips of the leaves, later followed by tip burn. The leaf blade turns somewhat paler but the main veins remain dark green (interveinal chlorosis). If not amended, these chlorotic patches turn into a dry, leathery tan or dark brown scorch (necrosis) that usually progresses from the leaf edge to the midrib. However, the main veins tend to remain green. Leaves tend to curl and crinkle and often collapse prematurely. Young leaves remain small and dull, assuming a cupped appearance. Potassium-deficient plants grow stunted and are more susceptible to diseases and other stresses such as drought and frost. In some cases, fruits may be severely deformed.

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Deficiencies may occur because of low reserves of potassium in the soil or limited availability to the plant. Soils with low pH and sandy or light soils with little organic content are prone to nutrient leaching and drought, and may, therefore, cause problems. Heavy irrigation and high rainfall wash the nutrients from the root zone and can also lead to deficiency. Hot temperatures or drought conditions block the transport of water and nutrients to the plants. High levels of phosphorus, magnesium, and iron can also compete with potassium. Potassium plays an essential role in the transport of water, the firmness of tissues and the exchange of gases with the atmosphere. The symptoms of potassium deficiency are irreversible, even if potassium is later added to the plants.

Organic Control

Add organic matter in the form of ashes or plant mulch to the soil at least once a year. Wood ash also has high potassium content. Liming acidic soils can increase potassium retention in some soils by reducing leaching.

Chemical Control

- Use fertilizers containing potassium (K). - Examples: muriate of potash (MOP), potassium nitrate (KNO3). - Consult your agricultural advisor to know the best product and dosage for your soil and crop. Further recommendations: - It's recommended to do a soil test before the start of the cropping season to optimize your crop production. - It's best to apply fertilizers during field preparation and at flowering. - Crops take up potassium more efficiently through soil fertilization than from foliar sprays.

Preventive Measures

  • Highly acidic or alkaline soils often lead to major and minor element deficiencies.
  • Check the pH of the soil and lime if necessary to get the optimal range.
  • Cultivate varieties that are more efficient in the uptake of potassium.
  • Ensure a balanced use of fertilizers to secure proper nutrients supply to the plant.
  • Add organic matter to the soil in the form of manure or plant mulch.
  • Water plants regularly and avoid flooding of fields.

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