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Global nitrogen fixation distribution – a plant ecology mystery

Nutrient and physiological disorders – an overview:
This page provides an overview of nutrient and physiological disorders. The related tools listed at the end of the page provided detailed information about the identification and management of such disorders. It is important to have expert identification of nutrient and physiological disorders as symptoms may be confused with disease problems.

Nutrient disorders are caused by a lack of plant nutrients, or the presence of nutrients at levels toxic to the plant. They affect the functioning of the plant system. When suffering from nutrient or physiological disorders, the plant exhibits disease-like symptoms; therefore nutrient disorders are sometimes mistaken for a disease. Nutrient disorders may result in a reduction in yield.

Vegetable crops grow poorly when lacking a balanced and adequate supply of nutrients. It is vital that all of the essential nutrients needed by plants are present in adequate supply. A low supply of just one of them will limit growth until the nutrient is fully supplied.

The key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies is to ensure that the soil is healthy and contains plenty of well-rotted organic matter. The only way to confirm a nutrient deficiency (or toxicity) is to have soil or plant tissue tested. Soil tests also help to ensure that maintenance rates of fertiliser are not too high or too low.

Testing and correcting soil pH is important because it has an effect on the availability of plant nutrients. In slightly acidic to neutral soil the availability of plant nutrients is not restricted by pH. In moderately to strongly acidic soil, and as the soil becomes more alkaline, the availability of many plant nutrients decreases or increases to toxic levels.

Soil should be tested for pH and nutrient levels prior to planting, allowing for enough time to apply fertiliser. For example, P should be applied a few weeks before planting. Always discuss test results with a regionally based horticulturist as they will have experience on how plants respond to fertiliser applications on different soil types and in different production systems and regions. They will also be able to provide guidance regarding rates and timing of application, types of fertiliser, fertiliser placement and foliar applications.