Nitrogen Deficiency

Nitrogen Deficiency


5 mins to read

In a Nutshell

  • Discoloration of leaves - pale green, light red petioles and veins.
  • Stunted leaf growth.
  • Long and thin appearance of the plant.

Can also be found in

56 Crops



Symptoms develop first in older leaves and move gradually up to the younger ones. In mild cases, the older mature leaves turn pale green. If not amended, over time a widespread yellowing develops on those leaves along with a light red discoloration of veins and petioles. As the deficiency progresses, these leaves eventually turn yellowish-white (veins included) and may curl or grow deformed. Young leaves remain pale green but grow much smaller than usual. Plants have a long, thin appearance due to the reduced branching but their height is usually normal. Plants become more susceptible to water stress and the wilting of leaves is common. Premature death and shedding may happen, which results in considerably lowered yields. Recovery becomes evident after a few days with the application of nitrogen fertilizer.


Organic Control

High levels of organic matter in soils can enhance soil structure and improve the capacity of the soil to retain water and nutrients. Organic matter can be added to soils as manure, compost, peat, or simply with the addition of nettle slag, guano, horn meal or nitrolime. Nettle slag can be sprayed directly on the leaves.

Chemical Control

  • Use fertilizers containing nitrogen (N).
  • Examples: Urea, NPK, ammonium nitrate.
  • Consult your agricultural advisor to know the best product and dosage for your soil and crop.

Further recommendations:

  • It is recommended to do a soil test before the start of the cropping season to optimize your crop production.
  • Best to apply nitrogen in multiple splits throughout the season.
  • Do not apply if you are close to harvesting time.

What caused it?

High rates of nitrogen are important during the vegetative growth of the plant. In periods of favorable weather, it is important to provide the fast-growing crops with a good nitrogen supply, so that they can reach their maximum vegetative and fruit/grain production potential. Nitrogen deficiencies can be observed in sandy, well-drained soils with little organic matter as they are prone to the leaching of nutrients. Frequent rainfalls, flooding or heavy irrigation wash down nitrogen into the soil and can also lead to deficiencies. Periods of drought stress hinder the absorption of water and nutrients, resulting in an unbalanced nutrient supply. Finally, the soil pH also plays a role in the availability of nitrogen to the plant. Both low or high soil pH negatively affect the absorption of nitrogen by the plant.

Preventive Measures

  • Check the pH of the soil and lime to get the optimal range before the start of the cropping season to optimize your crop production.
  • Provide fields with good drainage and do not over-water.
  • Excessive or unbalanced use of fertilizers may result in some micronutrients becoming unavailable to the plant.
  • Make sure to water plants regularly during periods of drought.
  • Make sure to add organic matter from compost, manure or mulch for example.
  • Petiole analysis can allow growers to detect the outset of a nitrogen deficiency in the crop.

Download Plantix