A calcium deficiency in plants is often confused with rot caused by bacterial or fungal type infections. After reading this article you should be able to identify and be able to correct calcium deficiencies in plants.
Calcium is used to build cell wall structure and because cell walls form around every cell, calcium is an essential element for maintaining cellular integrity. It also forms part of many enzymes. Enzymes play a pivotal role in the metabolic processes of cell growth and development. Calcium is also used to help transport other substances across cell membranes.
It is found in large quantities in cells that are dividing (meristematic cells) and this is the reason why calcium deficiency often manifests in the growing roots, shoots, buds and young leaves. The leaves of some plants hook downward and exhibit marginal necrosis. Roots on calcium-deficient plants are short and stubby.
Often time’s the symptoms calcium deficiencies are mistaken as some form of pathological rot.
Generally, calcium deficiency symptoms appear initially as localised tissue necrosis (premature death of cells resulting black coloured, soft, liquidy tissue lesions) which leads to stunted plant growth, necrotic leaf margins on young leaves or curling of the leaves, and eventual death of terminal buds and root tips. Other symptoms could include premature flower drop, yellow leaf margins and distorted new growth.
During times of rapid growth, plants need calcium to maintain cellular integrity. During this time rapid cell division occurs and calcium deficient plants will manifest the physiological symptoms of calcium deficiency. Orchids and particularly the cattleya alliance manifest the symptoms in the new emerging growth which invariably turns black and is accompanied by cell death (necrosis).
Calcium is absorbed through the growing root tips and is transported to the growing parts of the plants via xylem vascular system. Once deposited in cell walls it cannot be translocated to other parts of the plant. There are some nutrients can be translocated from mature growth to new developing growth, when the nutrient is in short supply.
Mature growth may contain sufficient quantities of calcium and it cannot be translocated to new growth to compensate for the deficiency.
It stands to reason then, that it is important to supplement with calcium regularly, particularly during periods of active growth.
You can correct calcium deficiencies by incorporating powdered lime or shell grit into your growing medium or by feeding your plants a solution of calcium nitrate, regularly. Calcium nitrate can be difficult to obtain as it is a chemical used for the manufacture of explosives.
For me a better solution is to use a fertiliser such as Dyna-Gro Nutrient Solutions range which all contain calcium in the formulation. This means that every time you fertilise your plants, you feed them with calcium. Problem solved.
Using a Dyna-Gro Nutrient Solution means that there is no need to use an additional fertiliser to supplement your plants with calcium. In fact, all the essential nutrients required to support optimal growth are formulated into Dyna-Gro Nutrient Solutions.
Below is a chart comparing some commonly available fertiliser to Dyna-Gro. Not that they do not have calcium in their formulations while Dyna-Gro does.
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