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Tomato crop guide: Nutrients deficiency symptoms


The chlorosis symptoms shown by the leaves on Figure 12 are the direct result of nitrogen deficiency. A light red cast can also be seen on the veins and petioles. Under nitrogen deficiency, the older mature leaves gradually change from their normal characteristic green appearance to a much paler green. As the deficiency progresses these older leaves become uniformly yellow (chlorotic). Leaves become yellowish-white under extreme deficiency. The young leaves at the top of the plant maintain a green but paler color and tend to become smaller in size. Branching is reduced in nitrogen deficient plants resulting in short, spindly plants. The yellowing in nitrogen deficiency is uniform over the entire leaf including the veins. As the deficiency progresses, the older leaves also show more of a tendency to wilt under mild water stress and senesce much earlier than usual. Recovery of deficient plants to applied nitrogen is immediate (days) and spectacular.


Figure 12: Characteristic nitrogen (N) deficiency symptom

Haifa's solution: Multi-K™ potassium nitrate fertilizer


The necrotic spots on the leaves on Fig. 13 are a typical symptom of phosphorus (P) deficiency. As a rule, P deficiency symptoms are not very distinct and thus difficult to identify. A major visual symptom is that the plants are dwarfed or stunted. Phosphorus deficient plants develop very slowly in relation to other plants growing under similar environmental conditions but with ample phosphorus supply.

Phosphorus deficient plants are often mistaken for unstressed but much younger plants.

Developing a distinct purpling of the stem, petiole and the lower sides of the leaves. Under severe deficiency conditions there is also a tendency for leaves to develop a blue-gray luster. In older leaves under very severe deficiency conditions a brown netted veining of the leaves may develop.


Figure 13: Characteristic phosphorus (P) deficiency symptom

Haifa's solution: Haifa MAP™ (Mono Ammonium Phosphate) and Haifa MKP™ (Mono Potassium Phosphate)



The leaves on the right-hand photo show marginal necrosis (tip burn). The leaves on the left-hand photo show more advanced deficiency status, with necrosis in the interveinal spaces between the main veins along with interveinal chlorosis. This group of symptoms is very characteristic of K deficiency symptoms.


Figure 14: Characteristic potassium (K) deficiency symptoms.

The onset of potassium deficiency is generally characterized by a marginal chlorosis, progressing into a dry leathery tan scorch on recently matured leaves. This is followed by increasing interveinal scorching and/or necrosis progressing from the leaf edge to the midrib as the stress increases. As the deficiency progresses, most of the interveinal area becomes necrotic, the veins remain green and the leaves tend to curl and crinkle. In contrast to nitrogen deficiency, chlorosis is irreversible in potassium deficiency. Because potassium is very mobile within the plant, symptoms only develop on young leaves in the case of extreme deficiency.


Typical potassium (K) deficiency of fruit is characterized by color development disorders, including greenback, blotch ripening and boxy fruit (Fig. 15).

Figure 15: Characteristic potassium (K) deficiency symptoms on the fruit

Haifa's solution: Multi-K™ potassium nitrate fertilizer


These calcium-deficient leaves (Fig. 16) show necrosis around the base of the leaves. The very low mobility of calcium is a major factor determining the expression of calcium deficiency symptoms in plants. Classic symptoms of calcium deficiency include blossom-end rot (BER) burning of the end part of tomato fruits (Fig. 17). The blossom-end area darkens and flattens out, then appearing leathery and dark brown, and finally it collapses and secondary pathogens take over the fruit.


Figure 16: Characteristic calcium (Ca) deficiency symptoms on leaves


Figure 17: Characteristic calcium (Ca) deficiency symptoms on the fruit


All these symptoms show soft dead necrotic tissue at rapidly growing areas, which is generally related to poor translocation of calcium to the tissue rather than a low external supply of calcium. Plants under chronic calcium deficiency have a much greater tendency to wilt than non-stressed plants.


Haifa's solution: Haifa Cal™ - Calcium nitrate fertilizer



Magnesium-deficient tomato leaves (Fig. 18) show advanced interveinal chlorosis, with necrosis developing in the highly chlorotic tissue. In its advanced form, magnesium deficiency may superficially resemble potassium deficiency. In the case of magnesium deficiency the symptoms generally start with mottled chlorotic areas developing in the interveinal tissue. The interveinal laminae tissue tends to expand proportionately more than the other leaf tissues, producing a raised puckered surface, with the top of the puckers progressively going from chlorotic to necrotic tissue.


Figure 18: Characteristic magnesium (Mg) deficiency


Haifa's solution: Magnisal - Magnesium nitrate fertilizer


This leaf (Fig. 19) shows a general overall chlorosis while still retaining some green color. The veins and petioles exhibit a very distinct reddish color. The visual symptoms of sulfur deficiency are very similar to the chlorosis found in nitrogen deficiency. However, in sulfur deficiency the yellowing is much more uniform over the entire plant including young leaves. The reddish color often found on the underside of the leaves and the petioles has a more pinkish tone and is much less vivid than that found in nitrogen deficiency. With advanced sulfur deficiency brown lesions and/or necrotic spots often develop along the petiole, and the leaves tend to become more erect and often twisted and brittle.


Figure 19: Characteristic sulfur (S) deficiency


These leaves (Fig. 20) show a light interveinal chlorosis developed under a limited supply of Mn. The early stages of the chlorosis induced by manganese deficiency are somewhat similar to iron deficiency. They begin with a light chlorosis of the young leaves and netted veins of the mature leaves especially when they are viewed through transmitted light. As the stress increases, the leaves take on a gray metallic sheen and develop dark freckled and necrotic areas along the veins. A purplish luster may also develop on the upper surface of the leaves.


Figure 20: Characteristic manganese (Mn) deficiency


Haifa's solution: Haifa Micro™


These leaves (Fig. 21) show some mottled spotting along with some interveinal chlorosis. An early symptom for molybdenum deficiency is a general overall chlorosis, similar to the symptom for nitrogen deficiency but generally without the reddish coloration on the undersides of the leaves. This results from the requirement for molybdenum in the reduction of nitrate, which needs to be reduced prior to its assimilation by the plant. Thus, the initial symptoms of molybdenum deficiency are in fact those of nitrogen deficiency. However, molybdenum has also other metabolic functions within the plant, and hence there are deficiency symptoms even when reduced nitrogen is available. At high concentrations, molybdenum has a very distinctive toxicity symptom in that the leaves turn a very brilliant orange.


Figure 21: Characteristic molybdenum (Mo) deficiency


This leaf (Fig. 22) shows an advanced case of interveinal necrosis. In the early stages of zinc deficiency the younger leaves become yellow and pitting develops in the interveinal upper surfaces of the mature leaves. As the deficiency progresses these symptoms develop into an intense interveinal necrosis but the main veins remain green, as in the symptoms of recovering iron deficiency.


Figure 22: Characteristic zinc (Zn) deficiency symptoms.


Haifa's solution: Haifa Micro™


This boron-deficient leaf (Fig. 23) shows a light general chlorosis. Boron is an essential plant nutrient, however, when exceeding the required level, it may be toxic. Boron is poorly transported in the phloem. Boron deficiency symptoms generally appear in younger plants at the propagation stage. Slight interveinal chlorosis in older leaves followed by yellow to orange tinting in middle and older leaves. Leaves and stems are brittle and corky, split and swollen miss-shaped fruit (Fig. 24).


Figure 23: Characteristic boron (B) deficiency symptoms on leaves


Figure 24: Characteristic boron (B) deficiency symptoms on fruits


These copper-deficient leaves (Fig. 25) are curled, and their petioles bend downward. Copper deficiency may be expressed as a light overall chlorosis along with the permanent loss of turgor in the young leaves. Recently matured leaves show netted, green veining with areas bleached to a whitish gray. Some leaves develop sunken necrotic spots and have a tendency to bend downward.


Figure 25: Characteristic copper (Cu) deficiency symptoms.


Haifa's solution: Haifa Micro™


These iron-deficient leaves (Fig. 26) show intense chlorosis at the base of the leaves with some green netting. The most common symptom for iron deficiency starts out as an interveinal chlorosis of the youngest leaves, evolves into an overall chlorosis, and ends as a totally bleached leaf. The bleached areas often develop necrotic spots. Up until the time the leaves become almost completely white they will recover upon application of iron. In the recovery phase the veins are the first to recover as indicated by their bright green color.


This distinct venial re-greening observed during iron recovery is probably the most recognizable symptom in all of classical plant nutrition. Because iron has a low mobility, iron deficiency symptoms appear first on the youngest leaves. Iron deficiency is strongly associated with calcareous soils and anaerobic conditions, and it is often induced by an excess of heavy metals.


Figure 26: Characteristic iron (Fe) deficiency symptoms


Haifa's solution: Haifa Micro™

Need more information about growing tomatoes? You can always return to the tomato fertilizer & tomato crop guide table of contents