» Identifying Deficiency Symptoms on Vegetable Plants

Identifying Deficiency Symptoms on Vegetable Plants

Q. I’m doing a research project in biology about plant nutrient deficiencies and how the growth will be affected. Do you have any sources that I should consult? Which plant should I use in the experiment? Which deficiency should I test for?

A. Dr. Mittleider learned hard work, meticulous record keeping, and accuracy in his early years as a baker. At about age 25 he started his own nursery business in Loma Linda, California. He studied everything he could get his hands on, then he consulted with soil-testing labs – even putting the Matkin Soil Labs of Southern California on a monthly retainer for several years. Then he conducted thousands of field experiments over the course of many years in dozens of locations all over the world.

The result of 45 years of study, documentation, and work is The Garden Doctor – a three-volume set, with about 800 color photos, devoted to documenting deficiency symptoms and the proper corrective treatments in vegetables and fruits.

As I have searched the world, I cannot find anything that even approaches this material for what it teaches on nutrient deficiencies in vegetable crops. The Garden Doctor, in my opinion, is the definitive work on the subject, and should be in every library and Agriculture School in the world. Jacob has been too busy helping people around the world to even spend time marketing his books, and that’s why they sometimes are not known or appreciated as they should be.

How extensive are you willing to make your experiments? To do something that’s reasonably simple, you could make the fertilizer formula given on the website at in the Gardening Techniques section, and the Fertilizers page. You would leave out the element for which you want to test the deficiency symptom, then grow the plant(s) until it shows a deficiency.

Do your experiments with the major or secondary elements, rather than trying the micro’s, because the deficiency will show up faster. And it’s always possible that the commercial fertilizer you use might have small amounts of some of the micro’s in it without stating it on the bag. Don’t choose sulfur, because many fertilizers have sulfur, although not stated, and you won’t see a deficiency.

Grow something that is easy to grow and grows fast. For example, if you were looking to prove a phosphorus deficiency, you could grow corn. It is easy, grows fast, and the purple leaves are a distinctive symptom of phosphorus deficiency. The Garden Doctor books could give you dozens of other examples.