Five Yield-Robbing Culprits and Remedies

June 12, 2014 02:00 AM

Know your deficiency and how to treat it

Nutrient deficiencies not only rob yield potential but it signifies a possible problem with overall soil health. Deficiencies can be avoided through pinpointing the problem, soil testing and proper application of necessary nutrients.

Below are the five most common nutrient deficiency symptoms in corn and how to correct the problem:

Nitrogen (N) deficient corn

nitrogen deficient corn

Corn suffering from nitrogen deficiency generally has a V-shaped yellow coloration, which progresses from the leaf end to the leaf collar and moves from the lower to upper leaves.


Common Causes: Treatment:
Under-application of N fertilizer Appropriate fertilizer N application
Underestimation of N release in manure Analyze manure for N content
Leaching of nitrate due to rainfall or irrigation Apply level appropriate for soil
Loss of N as a gas after water ponding or in compacted sites Install drainage tiles in heavier soils and/or minimize field compaction
Onset of dryer weather Irrigate if possible

Phosphorous (P) deficient corn

phosphorus deficient corn

Phosphorous deficient corn is recognizable by the purple coloration on the lower leaves.


Common Causes: Treatment:
Under-application of P fertilizer needs Apply fertilizer P as a ‘starter’ application
Cooler/wetter weather Avoid earliest planting dates (warmer weather can correct symptoms)
Planted P inefficient hybrids or Inherited tendency of some hybrids Plant P efficient hybrids

Potassium (K) deficient corn

potassium deficient corn

Yellow and brown coloration of leaf margins, which occur on lower leaves first and progress to upper leaves are symptoms of potassium deficient corn.


Common Causes: Treatment:
Under-application of K fertilizer Apply appropriate fertilizer K rate
Cooler/wetter weather Avoid earliest planting dates (warmer weather can correct symptoms)
Planted K inefficient hybrids Plant K efficient hybrids

Sulfur (S) deficient corn

sulfur deficient corn

Sulfur deficiency is recognizable by the yellow, striped pattern on corn leaves or interveinal chlorosis pattern. This is generally found in younger leaves.


Common Causes: Treatment:
Under-application of S fertilizer Apply appropriate fertilizer S

Reduced mineralization due to:

1. Eroded knolls and hillsides, which have lower organic matter than rest of the field

  1. Analyze soil organic matter content (deficiencies are generally found in no-till soils with organic matter content of <2.5%).
2. Mineralization of organic-S to sulfate-S in fields under no-till cultivation is reduced compared to cultivated fields 2. Apply fertilizer in sulfate form as ammonium sulfate or ammonium thiosulfate. Elemental S may take several years to increase sulfate-S levels.

Zinc (Zn) deficient corn

zinc deficient corn

Zinc deficient corn will have broad-band yellow coloration and generally occurs in upper and mid-level leaves, which may progress outward.


Common Causes: Treatment:
Under-application of Zn fertilizer Apply appropriate fertilizer Zn needs as starter fertilizer (Sn-Chelates are not recommended due to high cost)

Soil has pH >7.5

Avoid planting in very high pH soil

Soil testing and creating an effective nutrient plan will aide in avoiding these yield-robbing problems.

Use these resources to help you boost yields and create a winning nutrient management plan:


Source: South Dakota State University


Back to news



Spell Check

No comments have been posted to this News Article

Corn College TV Education Series


Get nearly 8 hours of educational video with Farm Journal's top agronomists. Produced in the field and neatly organized by topic, from spring prep to post-harvest. Order now!


Market Data provided by
Brought to you by Beyer