What are the symptoms of a lack of iron in plants?

Plants need nutrients in order to grow. When the roots cannot have any of them, they will immediately begin to show symptoms of that lack. One of the most common problems they have, especially those that are acidophilic, is a lack of iron . This lack is noticed very quickly, making our beloved plants not look sad and even sick. When that happens, we have to act fast to prevent it from getting worse.

Therefore, we are going to dedicate this article to tell you everything you need to know to recognize the lack of iron in your plants and how to act against it.

What is iron chlorosis

iron-deficient leaves

Farmers and gardeners know that the deficiency of micronutrients is a factor that comes to produce due to economic impact on the profitability of the crops and in the total production. A lack of iron is known as iron chlorosis and it is a lack of this element that causes nutritional deficiency in crops. In fact, it is considered one of the most notorious deficiencies on an aesthetic level. It is mainly characterized by an alteration in the color of the leaves that gradually turn a yellowish foliar color. This is because metabolism is affected and chlorophyll synthesis is affected.

Other nutrient deficiencies are also known to manifest some similar visual changes in the plant. It is for this reason that focusing on covering deficiencies in this micronutrient is essential.

Symptoms of a lack of iron in plants

The lack of iron or iron deficiency is a problem that begins to affect the youngest leaves . First, they will turn yellow, from the tip of the leaf inwards, minus the nerves that will continue to look green. If left untreated, over time all leaves will turn yellow, wrinkle, and fall off.

There are many plants that are very sensitive to a lack of iron, such as acidophilic plants ( Japanese maple , camellia , gardenia , hydrangea , daphne , liquidambar , oak , among others), some fruit trees such as lemon or orange trees , and also some palm trees such as those of the genus Caryota .

Causes of iron deficiency

leaves in bad condition

In general, this deficiency appears due to a blockage of iron in the soil due to the pH, which is too high (7 or higher). In those soils that are limestone, that is, that have a lot of lime, this mineral is not available to plants as it does not dissolve with water .

Even so, iron chlorosis can also appear from watering with calcareous waters . Although the soil has a suitable pH for plants, if we use hard water its pH will rise, thus blocking iron and other micronutrients.

Most of the symptoms usually appear on younger leaves and the main evidence is the intensity of their coloration. As the lack of iron becomes more pronounced, the green color of the leaves will change to a more yellow color. The entire leaf blade will be seen with this color except for the veins, which will always remain green. A feature of this nutritional deficiency is its arbitrariness. This means that changes in color can be found in some areas of the plant and not in others. All these signs are common in nutritional deficiencies and are key to differentiate between deficiencies of other nutrients.

To see a better example we are going to point out a plant with a nitrogen deficiency. In this case, chlorosis would be observed throughout the leaf included in the vascular bundles. It’s common for nutritional deficiencies to show up first on old leaves. The roots have a brown color and a characteristic odor as a result of the secretion of phenolic compounds. You must bear in mind that nutritional deficiencies can occur at the same time. It is recommended that a soil and leaf analysis be carried out to determine the composition of the nutrients and possible missing elements.

It is important that the lack of iron is solved after the moment of planting the crop. In this way, it will be able to grow in a balanced way and without food restrictions.

Prevention and treatment

iron chlorosis

Whenever we have doubts about what type of substrate or soil the plant we want to grow needs, it is very important that we find out the pH of the soil . If it is 7 or greater, we do not have to plant acidophilic plants as they would end up with iron chlorosis.

In the event that we have already planted some, we must give chelated iron ( iron chelates) as soon as possible , which is a fertilizer whose chemical structure is protected from blocking the alkaline pH, so that the roots can dispose of it. There are two types depending on the mode of application: foliar and root.

  • Foliar fertilizers are the most used when the plant urgently needs some micronutrient , such as iron, zinc, boron, or manganese, among others. They are sprayed on the leaves, following the instructions on the container, which will soon begin to recover. Of course, those that are very affected will not turn green.
  • Root fertilizers are those used when the plant needs macronutrients , such as nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium.

Another thing we must do is acidify the irrigation water . To do this, it will be enough to dilute the liquid of half a lemon in 1 liter of water. Likewise, it is also highly advisable to fertilize with acidic plant fertilizers throughout the growing season (from spring to late summer / early fall).

Some more forms of treatment and prevention are as follows:

  • Trunk injections for trees of a certain age.
  • Acidify the soil to be able to lead all the insolubilized iron and to be able to make this element a food available for its absorption through the roots.
  • Avoid overfertilization with zinc or magnesium.
  • Increase the temperature of the roots.
  • Analyze and improve the substrate.
  • Improve drainage , avoiding compaction and helping to aerate the soil.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the lack of iron in your crops and its treatments.

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