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What is nitrogen deficiency in plants and how to fix it?

Nitrogen deficiency
7 mins read |

A shortage of nitrogen in plants is referred to as a nitrogen deficiency in plants. It may occur when organic materials with a high carbon content are introduced to the soil. An example of this would be sawdust. Plants cannot get nitrogen because it is consumed by soil microbes, so they may continue their work of decomposing carbon sources. This practice is called “robbing” the soil of its nitrogen content and may affect almost every kind of vegetable, except nitrogen-fixing legumes.

The development of nitrogen deficiency may be avoided by applying manure to the foliage of plants or mulching with grass clippings. Planting green manure crops like grazing rye or winter tares to cover the soil during the winter can assist in avoiding nitrogen loss from the soil. In contrast, leguminous green manures like winter tares will fix extra nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Nitrogen’s role in crop production

Nitrogen is essential for plant life because it is required to produce chlorophyll, fundamental to photosynthesis, which is essentially how plants receive their food. In addition, nitrogen is necessary for the plant’s growth since it serves as a “building block” for amino acids, membrane proteins, DNA, enzymes, the majority of coenzymes, auxins, and cytokinins, as well as cells.

Because of this, it is essential to take measures to avoid and effectively manage nitrogen deficiency in plants, which ultimately slows the growth and reduces yields. On the other hand, nitrogen fixation and an adequate supply of nitrogen are necessary to maintain healthy plant development and maximize crop yield. Another significant disadvantage of nitrogen deficiency is that it results in lower quantities of protein in cereals, such as maize and wheat.

Causes of nitrogen deficiency in plants

Major causes of nitrogen deficiency in plants include:

  • N deficiency is common in sandy, well-drained, fast-leaching soils.
  • Overwatering from irrigation and rain causes nitrogen deficiency.
  • Proper soil aeration delivers sufficient O2 to aerobic and facultative aerobic nitrogen-fixing microorganisms, preventing nitrogen famine. But denitrifying bacteria consume NO2/NO3 in low-oxygen soils. Poor aeration also turns plant-useful nitrates into greenhouse gas N2O.
  • Temperature impacts nutrient solubility and microbial activity, releasing plant-available nitrogen. Lower soil temperature reduces crop nutrition.
  • High zinc, magnesium, and potassium chlorides create nitrogen deficiency in plants.
  • Due to osmotic pressure, soil salinity reduces nitrogen uptake.
  • High or low pH impacts crop nitrogen availability.
  • Damaged or affected roots absorb nutrients inadequately when infected by pests or diseases.
  • Eventually, it influences nitrogen uptake.
  • High nitrogen solubility promotes nitrogen deficiency, as nitrogen is readily washed away.
  • Organic matter is vital for nitrogen; hence low levels suggest poor plant-available nitrogen.

How can nitrogen deficiency in plants be diagnosed?

It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that the earliest indications of nitrogen deficiency in plants are often indications of poor health. The following is a list of the most typical visual symptoms that are connected with an inadequate intake of nitrogen:

  • Lower leaves are yellow, while the higher ones on the plant are a lighter shade of green.
  • Poorly developed shoots or branches.
  • You may be able to make out purple patterns on the plant stems of some plant types.
  • The leaves will ultimately turn brown, wilt, and fall off as the process of aging continues.
  • There will be a decrease in flowering and fruits.
  • Growth retardation of the plants.
  • Slowing down the production of new leaves.
  • If this shortage is allowed to continue, it will significantly impact agricultural production.

Nitrogen deficiency in plants

However, before treating the nitrogen deficiency in plants, it is essential to bear in mind that the visual signs of many other nutrient deficiencies are similar.

Variable Rate Nitrogen (VRN)

The nitrogen status of crops within a field may be precisely reflected via fertilizer application thanks to technological advancements in remote sensing. It directs the applicator, equipped with GPS, to apply the correct amount of fertilizer at the best possible rate as it travels over the field.

How does it work?

On the fertilizer spreader are sensors that monitor the crop’s light reflection at various wavelengths that are significant to the crop’s chlorophyll concentration and biomass. These sensors each get their light source, which allows them to function independently of the surrounding lighting environment.

Variable Rate Nitrogen

The nitrogen demand is calculated on a computer every second using algorithms created from data collected during field trials. This information is then sent to a variable rate applicator or sprayer, which promptly adjusts the fertilizer application rate over the field.

The benefits of VRN

Here are some considerable benefits of variable rate nitrogen (VRN):

  • A rise in the overall yield of 4.65 percent on average.
  • Effectively targeting inputs.
  • Maintaining and even increasing grain’s protein levels.
  • More uniform crop canopy.
  • Reduced chances of becoming sick from lodging or illness.
  • Efficiency gains in the use of nitrogen (nitrogen use efficiency: NUE).

What are maps of nitrogen fertilizers?

It is possible to conduct variable rate fertilization thanks to prescription maps. It allows the fertilizer dosage to be optimized by linking the suitable amount of fertilizer with each field section. It is a crucial point when discussing using nitrogen fertilizer in cereals. A deficiency in nitrogen results in a decrease in output and quality, while an excessive amount poses concerns to the environment and adds additional expenses to agricultural operations.

There are three stages involved in the construction of prescription maps:

  1. Identifying the field portions that are consistent concerning the dosage of nitrogen.
  2. Selecting the approach for fertilization.
  3. Determining the appropriate quantity of nitrogen fertilizer to apply in each field section.

How to calculate nitrogen in a fertilizer bag?

Do not let yourself be misled by the colossal nitrogen figure shown on the fertilizer bag; this is the number that comes first in the N-P-K analysis. The total nitrogen calculation in a pack of fertilizer may be carried out by estimating the pounds of nitrogen per thousand square feet.

Multiplying the weight of the bag of fertilizer by the percentage of nitrogen contained in the fertilizer (the first figure in the N-P-K designation found on the front of the bag) will allow you to get the pounds of nitrogen contained in the load in pounds. After that, divide the total number of pounds of nitrogen by the surface area that the bag claims. It will serve to get the number of pounds of nitrogen that will be needed per 1,000 square feet. Note that fertilizer is often sold in bags measuring 5,000 or 10,000 square feet.

Apply for help to agricultural platforms

It is much simpler to request assistance from agricultural platforms like GeoPard. The reason is that they provide a variety of solutions, which may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Establishing management zones and drawing prescription and variable rate application maps can help you locate and control trouble spots on your farm.
  • Analyses of soil data (soil data analytics) to create prescription maps for variable rate agriculture fertilization and get comprehensive maps of the attributes of the soil.
  • Yield data may be used to make better-informed choices and increase growing efficiency.
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