Micronutrient deficiency

Micronutrient deficiency

A micronutrient deficiency (or trace mineral deficiency) is a physiological plant disorder which occurs when a micronutrient is deficient in the soil in which a plant grows. Micronutrients are distinguished from macronutrients (such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) by the relatively low quantities needed by the plant. It also represents a human physiological disorder which occurs when a person's diet does not contain required nutrients and/or when illnesses (such as diarrhoea or malaria) cause rapid loss of nutrients through feces or vomit.[1] Untreated, sub-clinical deficiencies can manifest as serious physical disabilities or life-threatening disorders, such as Beriberi (thiamine deficiency), scurvy (vitamin C) or xerophthalmia (vitamin A).[2]

A number of elements are known to be needed in these small amounts for proper plant growth and development.[3] Nutrient deficiencies in these areas can adversely affect plant growth and development. Some of the best known trace mineral deficiencies include: boron deficiency, calcium deficiency, iron deficiency, magnesium deficiency, and manganese deficiency.

List of essential trace minerals for plants

  • Boron is believed to be involved in carbohydrate transport in plants; it also assists in metabolic regulation. Boron deficiency will often result in bud dieback.
  • Cobalt is essential to plant health. Cobalt is thought to be an important catalyst in nitrogen fixation. It may need to be added to some soils before seeding legumes.
  • Copper is a component of some enzymes and of vitamin A. Symptoms of copper deficiency include browning of leaf tips and chlorosis.
  • Iron is essential for chlorophyll synthesis, which is why an iron deficiency results in chlorosis.
  • Manganese activates some important enzymes involved in chlorophyll formation. Manganese deficient plants will develop chlorosis between the veins of its leaves. The availability of manganese is partially dependent on soil pH.
  • Molybdenum is essential to plant health. Molybdenum is used by plants to reduce nitrates into usable forms. Some plants use it for nitrogen fixation, thus it may need to be added to some soils before seeding legumes.
  • Zinc participates in chlorophyll formation, and also activates many enzymes. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include chlorosis and stunted growth.

See also


  1. ^ The Development of Concepts of Malnutrition, Journal of Nutrition, 132:2117S-2122S, July 1, 2002.
  2. ^ Entitlement Failure from a Food Quality Perspective: The Life and Death Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Humanitarian Crises. Patrick Webb and Andrew Thorne-Lyman, World Institute for Development Economics Research, Research Paper No. 2006/140, November 2006, United Nations University.
  3. ^ A Companion to Plant Physiology, Fourth Edition. Wade Berry, UCLA. Topic 5.1 Symptoms of Deficiency In Essential Minerals. Sinauer Publishing.

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