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Diagnosing Nutrient Deficiencies in Corn

09 June 2014

The foundation for strong, healthy corn plants is proper nutrition.


Nutrient DeficiencyWhile many factors affect the nutritional quality of crops, some common macro and micro nutrient deficiencies can be found with nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), sulfur (S) and zinc (Zn).

Throughout the growing season, producers should take time to scout their fields for nutrient deficiencies. If visual symptoms suggest inadequate nutrient levels, it is recommended to confirm a diagnosis through a tissue or soil test.

Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms


  • V-shaped yellowing beginning at the leaf tip and progressing along the midrib – symptoms start on lower leaves
  • Spindly stalks
  • Stunted growth
  • Small ears

Phosphorus2 – typically only visible early in the growing season

  • Dark green plants with red or purple leaf tips and stems
  • Slow growth
  • Shallow root system


  • Yellowing and necrosis of leaf margins – symptoms start on lower leaves
  • Lodging late in growing season due to poor stalk strength


  • Yellow to white interveinal striping on leaf – symptoms start on lower leaves

Sulfur1 – typically only visible early in the growing season

  • Yellowing of leaves – symptoms are present in upper leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Delayed maturity


  • Light or white interveinal striping from the base of the leaf spreading towards the tip
  • Stunted growth

1Crop nutrient deficiencies & toxicities. Stevens. University of Missouri

2Nutrient deficiencies and application injuries in field crops. Sawyer, Iowa State University


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