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  • Writer's pictureKyle Holt

Protect Your Plants; Preventing Nutrient Deficiencies in Cannabis

You found the pe seeds, set up your lights in the ideal position, splurged on premium soil and fertilizer, and everything was going perfectly as your seedlings grew into plants. But, something’s gone wrong and you have no idea what might be causing the problem!

Welcome to the idea of nutrient deficiency, something every experienced grower will have tackled in their career. Plants require more than just the obvious mentioned in the first paragraph; sometimes you get lucky and all the forgettable nutrients remain in perfect balance throughout the growing period. For those of us that are less lucky, there are some tips and tricks for preventing a deficiency.

What is a nutrient deficiency in cannabis?

Like all living things, plants require a plethora of nutrients to grow and thrive. Especially when it comes to cannabis, we want our plants to be the pinnacles of health and

producing their maximum yield. Oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen are provided by the air and water that’s usually found in abundance. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the ‘NPK’ that comprise most general fertilizers.

There are dozens of other nutrients that your plants require in varying quantities. However, these are often things like salts and metals -- high levels of which can be toxic, hence their exclusion from generalized fertilizers that are applied liberally.

In some cases, plants may show a nutrient deficiency even after adequate addition of a target nutrient. This is due to another possible cause of deficiency -- the inability for the plant to absorb a nutrient, even when it’s available in abundance. This can make treating nutrient deficiency a challenge. Thankfully, the principals of treating a deficiency can be equally applied before a problem arises.

Preventing nutrient deficiencies

The environment beneath the surface of your soil, or water in hydro systems, is dynamic and complex. There is a multitude of factors that influence how well the roots of your plants can absorb the nutrients they need.

Ensure adequate pH

The pH balance is a measure of the acidity of your growing medium. It is largely dictated by the water and fertilizer you add. It can be assessed with digital meters or simple test-strips. The ideal range is somewhere between 5 and 7; outside this range, certain nutrients may be “locked out.”

Drainage and Aeration

Inadequate drainage, or soil that is too densely packed, is a common trouble-maker for new growers. Not only can it promote the proliferation of harmful bacteria or fungi that cause root rot, but it can also deprive the roots of the oxygen they require. Further, incomplete drainage can result in the build-up of certain nutrients, to potentially toxic levels.

Nutrient Competition

Allowing the build-up of nutrients -- either through incorrect drainage or imbalanced fertilization -- can cause problems even before reaching dangerous levels. Some nutrients share the same pathwayto enter a plant’s roots; an over-abundance of one might ‘clog the door’ and exclude another that might otherwise be in an appropriate quantity.

Be Proactive: Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies, Don’t Treat Them

In most cases, a nutrient deficiency has to be diagnosed and treated in a specific manner. This can take considerable time, research and resources -- all the while your plants suffer under the effects. Following the tips above will help you prevent deficiencies in the first place, and can be the first things to check if your plants show signs of distress.

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