An Apple A Day

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Liebigs Law of the Minimum

Having a tool such as Pageant® Intrinsic™ to provide plants with an extra boost to help them weather times of stress is a real bonus for growers. However, it can’t be relied on 100 percent – nothing can. The first line of defense for keeping plants in tip-top shape so they have the best chance of resisting problems is proper nutrition. Your mother was right. If you ate healthy food, you got sick less. The same is true for plants – they just complain less.

Providing just the right amount of nutrients at the right time is one of the most crucial components of plant health. Although based in science, it is a true art. Different species of plants require different amounts of nutrients, and variables such as soil type and pH, light and moisture levels, temperature and the growth stage of the plant all affect how much of a given element a plant needs for optimum health. The fact that there are 17 essential nutrients, 14 of which come from the soil, adds more complexity to the equation.

Experienced growers know how to adjust for these factors and play the delicate game of applying enough fertilizer but not too much.
Of the 17 essential nutrients, only one needs to be deficient to slow plant growth. Known as the “Law of the Minimum,” it was first proposed by Justus von Liebig, a nineteenth-century German chemist credited with the start of the modern fertilizer industry. Liebig said if one of the essential nutrients is lacking, the plant will not reach its full potential even if all the other nutrients are in abundant supply. Of course, this also applies to other necessities for plant growth such as water and light, but it emphasizes the importance of each of the essential elements – even if only needed in trace amounts.

It’s important to be able to recognize the first signs of a nutrient deficiency in order to minimize its impact. A deficiency can often be mistaken for a disease. Yellowing and/or spotted leaves, brown leaf margins and stunted growth can be signs of disease as well.

Training employees to look for the symptoms on the chart on the following pages provides extra eyes to aid in identifying problems early.

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