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Hidden Hunger

While visual plant symptoms are useful for identifying some nutrient deficiencies, it should be noted that plant growth and yields are often limited by a lack of nutrients before any symptoms are evident, even to an experienced agronomist. This sub-clinical deficiency is often referred to as “hidden hunger”.

The best method of determining whether a plant is suffering from hidden hunger is through a plant test. For some nutrients required early in the plant’s development (such as P), by the time a plant sample is taken, analysed and returned to the farmer, much of the damage may have been done before the deficiency can be corrected. In these cases, the deficiency can only be addressed for the following season.

For many nutrients (N,P, K and S), soil testing in summer is an effective way of determining the fertiliser requirements before the crop or pasture is established.