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Plant Nutrient Analysis for the Home Grower: Demystifying Deficiencies

Phan Tram with MCR Labs


Plants require several essential macronutrients and micronutrients for growth and metabolism. The availability of these nutrients play a large role in the cultivation of Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica. Nutrient disorders in cannabis are considerably affected by elemental deficiencies which can be linked to environmental factors and growth conditions. Plant nutrients are divided into mobile nutrients and immbobile nutrients. Mobile nutrients can be transferred from one part of the plant to another whereas immobile nutrients cannot be redistributed throughout the plant. Deficiencies in specific mobile or immobile nutrients have been cited to negatively impact crop growth and product yield. A nutrient disorder can manifest in observable, physical traits, but it can take significant diagnosing expertise to decipher one disorder from another.

Identifying physical symptoms is one example of how a care plan for a cannabis plant/crop may be achieved. However, this method of characterization can be met with limitations for the amateur home grower. Plant nutrient analysis serves as a diagnostic tool to provide quantifiable nutrient data to determine any specific elemental deficiencies. This information can then be used to develop a care plan, or adjust an established one, ensuring optimum crop efficiency and yield.


A case study is conducted to demonstrate how plant nutrient analysis can be utilized by the home grower as a diagnostic tool. The home grower observed the appearance of mold and was aware that less calcium was applied to the year’s crop compared to prior years. This prompted the treatment of industrial strength field application calcium to improve the plant immune system. The Youngest Mature Fan Leaf (YMFL) was then collected and submitted for testing to provide the most accurate snapshot of the plant’s nutrient profile.


A plant nutrient analysis via inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) revealed that the treatment resulted in a high presence of calcium. Accordingly, plant nutrient analysis revealed that calcium was found to be well above the standard sufficiency ranges.


The acquired data from the study was used to establish an example plan that may be used to combat observed symptoms of deficiencies or toxicities. Although visual diagnosis of nutrient deficiency can be a valuable tool, the onset of symptoms may be too late to take corrective action. Plant nutrient analysis provides a quantitative guideline that allows a home grower to determine chemically if their plant is healthy and maximize yield.

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