Definitions

calcium deficiency

calcium deficiency

Inadequate supply or metabolism of calcium, the main structural element of bones and teeth. Its metabolism is regulated by vitamin D, phosphorus, and hormones (see parathyroid gland). Calcium in the blood has roles in muscle contraction, nerve-impulse transmission, blood clotting, milk production, hormone secretion, and enzyme function, for which calcium is pulled from the bones if deficiency develops. Chronic deficiency may be a factor in the development of osteoporosis or osteomalacia (softening of bone) and may contribute to hypertension and colon cancer. Severe calcium deficiency (hypocalcemia), usually the result of a metabolic problem rather than a dietary deficiency, causes numbness, tingling, and painful muscle aches and spasms.

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Calcium (Ca) deficiency is a plant disorder that can be caused by insufficient calcium in the growing medium, but is more frequently a product of a compromised nutrient mobility system in the plant. This may be due to water shortages, which slow the transportation of calcium to the plant, or can be caused by excessive usage of potassium or nitrogen fertilizers.

Symptoms

Calcium deficiency symptoms appear initially as generally stunted plant growth, necrotic leaf margins on young leaves or curling of the leaves, and eventual death of terminal buds and root tips. Generally the new growth of the plant is affected first. The mature leaves may be affected if the problem persists.

Crop-specific symptoms include: Apple : 'Bitter pit' – fruit skins develop pits, brown patches appear in flesh and taste becomes bitter. Can occur when fruit is in storage. Bramley apples are particularly susceptible. Cabbage and Brussels sprouts : Internal browning. Carrot : 'Cavity spot' – oval spots develop into craters which may be invaded by other disease causing organisms. Celery : Stunted growth, central leaves stunted. Tomatoes and peppers : 'Blossom end rot' – Symptoms start as sunken, dry decaying areas at the blossom end of the fruit, furthest away from the stem, not all fruit on a truss is necessarily affected. Sometimes rapid growth from high-nitrogen fertilizers may cause blossom end rot.

Treatment

Calcium deficiency can be rectified by adding Agricultural lime to acid soils, aiming at a pH of 6.5, unless the plant in question specifically prefers acidic soil. Organic matter should be added to the soil in order to improve its moisture-retaining capacity.

Plant damage is difficult to reverse, so take corrective action immediately. Make supplemental applications of calcium nitrate at 200 ppm nitrogen. Test and correct the pH if needed because calcium deficiency is often associated with low pH.

Notes

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