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Sight Unseen: Zinc Deficiency in Soil

Updated: Jun 27

Today we are continuing our analysis of mineral interactions with a rather overlooked one! Let’s take a closer look at Zinc (Zn), an essential micronutrient for leaf growth and biomass production.

The interaction between Zinc (Zn) and Phosphorus (P)

  • Growers often apply excess Phosphorus(P) because it is highly immobile in soils. However, when Phosphorus(P) is applied excessively, Zinc(Zn) levels are most likely to be affected within the plant. This is because Phosphorus(P) has a repressive effect on Zinc(Zn). It is a tricky one to detect as well, because the antagonistic properties of this interaction happen in the plant rather than in the soil. When high phosphorus levels repress Zinc(Zn), absorption by roots decreases. Plant growth continues but Zinc(Zn) concentration gets lower. Iron deficiency tends to occur in the plant, and even Phosphorus(P) toxicity. Visibly, this causes smaller leaf size and lower yields

How can I achieve Zinc(Zn) balance? 

Understanding the relationship between microbial levels and Phosphorus(P) availability can help decrease the need for excess Phosphorus(P) additions while increasing Zinc(Zn) concentrations in tissue.

Do not disregard other factors that might affect Zinc(Zn) levels! 

  • If pH levels are too high, Zinc(Zn) binds to soil particles which decreases the Zinc(Zn) ions dissolved in soil solution, limiting the amount that plants can take up. If pH levels are too low, all the Zinc(Zn) is released into the soil solution, which rain or irrigation can easily wash away. Other factors like cold weather, and the soil texture itself can come into play when Zinc(Zn) deficiency occurs. 

How can you find out if you have this problem? 

  • The factors above may act independently. Therefore it is crucial to see indicators as a whole. 

  • There is a need for multiple testing to detect these mechanisms. Plant Sap Analysis gives you real-time information about your crop mineral absorption. It can be powerful to monitor these interactions both in the soil and the tissue. 

Platforms like SoilBeat can help you compare your indicators with weather and soil data, so that nothing goes unnoticed! For mineral interactions, a variety of different data sets are necessary to define the problem space.


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