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Bradenton AREC Research Report BRA19C2-23 December 19C2
FERTILIZER REQUIREMENTS OF PEPPER SEEDLINGS FOR TRANSPLANT
PRODUCTION: SYMPTOMS OF INORGANIC NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES
S. S. Woltz12
In the production of pepper transplants of controlled quality, it is desir-
able to know the ultimate nutritional requirements of the seedlings over
and above the nutrients contained in the seeds (1-4). To shed light on this
question, pepper seedlings were grown in perlite, a medium relatively devoid
of nutrients and a 1:1 steamed mixture of virgin iMyakka fine sand and Canadian
peat limed with powdered CaCO3 at a rate of 5 pounds per cubic yard of mix,
'Yolo Wonder' pepper seeds were germinated in 2" pots (5 replicates), thinned
to 1 seedling per pot and irrigated with nutrient solutions, either complete
or from which nutrient elements had been omitted one at a time. Nutrient
elements were furnished at the following ppm rates: nitrogen (N) 200,
phosphorus (P) 50, potassium (K) 150, calcium (Ca) 200, magnesium (Mg) -
75, sulfur (S) 75, boron (B) 0.2, copper (Cu) 0.2, iron (Fe) 2,
manganese (Mn) 1, molybdenum (Mo) 0.1, and zinc (Zn) 1 ppm. Nutrient
stock solutions were purified of chemical contaminants by autoclaving with
CaCO 2 g/liter or by re-crystallizing chemical salts where appropriate.
Nutrient solutions (pH 6.5) were applied twice weekly to run-through (30 to
50 ml per pot) and watered with demonized water as needed the remainder of
the week. Data were collected and seedlings were harvested at 5 weeks from
Symptoms of deficiencies are outlined below:
Nitrogen deficiency resulted in a severe stunting and yellowing of pepper
seedlings. Cotyledons dropped off the stem in acute deficiency. There was
leaf tip scorch of cotyledons due to N deficiency.
Phosphorus deficiency caused stunting (short plants) and small leaves. There
was little discoloration of plants and none of the purpling usually seen with
phosphorus deficiency of plants.
Potassium deficiency resulted in stunting to about the same degree as a defi-
ciency of phosphorus but less than nitrogen deficiency. Lower leaves and
cotyledons were yellow but did not develop the tip and marginal leaf scorch
usually found in potassium deficiency of other plants. Upper leaves were
green but of a lighter coloration than control plants. Potassium deficiency
later caused a dropping of cotyledons and lower leaves.
Professor, Plant Physiology
2The author expresses appreciation to Patricia Cox for valuable technical
A shortage of calcium reduced plant growth severely in perlite and caused
a yellowing of cotyledonary leaves from mid-leaf outwards. Cotyledon tips
curved downward slightly. Plants were also stunted in the peat-soil mix
even though lime was included in the mix. Root growth was considerably
reduced by calcium deficiency.
Magnesium deficiency was more striking in appearance than the preceding
nutrient deficiencies. Interveinal yellowing was quite pronounced in acute
magnesium deficiency. The base of the leaf and the bases of the larger
veins were green in acute deficiency grading out to a uniform yellow of the
remainder of the leaf. Cotyledons yellowed except for the midrib which
remained green after the remainder of the leaf became chlorotic.
Sulfur deficiency of pepper seedlings was characterized by uniformly pale
yellowish green coloration of cotyledons and all leaves. This deficiency
presented a type of chlorosis that differed appreciably from the yellowing
patterns of others indicating that sulfur was distributed fairly uniformly
in the plant and not redistributed easily from lower leaves.
A deficiency of boron caused a distortion of leaf shape, puckering and
yellowing of leaves that was more pronounced in mid to older leaves but
also affected young leaves. The most characteristic symptom of boron
deficiency in pepper, however, is what may best be called "corky vein."
Veins in the leaves become thickened and the surface tissues roughened
into a brown, corky-appearing condition. Leaf lamina alongside veins also
developed corking as did petioles. The reserves in seeds must have been
low because of the severe stunting of boron deficient seedlings, especially
those grown in perlite. This indicates that boron deficiency may occur
earlier in seedling production than commonly expected.
Although deficiencies of some of the micronutrients other than boron reduced
yield, they did not produce overt symptoms due probably to seed reserves.
Deficiencies of nicronutrients are more frequently due to unusual media pH's
and nutritional imbalances than to simple deficiencies. For this reason,
one must not assume that pepper seed reserves will always be protective
against deficiencies in the early growth stages.
Quantitative results are presented in Table 1, pointing out seedling response
to omission of single nutrient elements. Perlite, a poor source of nutrients,
produced deficiencies of N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, B, Fe and Zn. The mixture of
Myakka fine sand and peat had deficiencies of N, P, K and B demonstrating
nutrient-furnishing capacity for some of the inorganic elements required by
1. Jaworski, C. A. and R. E. Webb. 1971. Pepper performance after trans-
plant clipping. HortScience 6:480-482.
2. Jaworski, C. A., S. C. Phatak, S. M. McCarter, A. W. Johnson, and N. C.
Glaze. 1980. Evaluation of fall treatment with broadspectrum chemicals
and nematicides for production of pepper, tomato, and cabbage trans-
plants in southern Georgia. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 105:756-759
3. Knavel, D. E. 1977. The influence of nitrogen on pepper transplant
growth and yielding potential of plants grown with different levels
of soil nitrogen. J. Amer. Soc. Short. Sci. 102:533-535.
4. Miller, C. H., R. E. lcCollum and Sootin Claimon. 1979. Relationships
between growth of bell peppers (Capsicum annum L.) and nutrient accumu-
lation during ontogeny in field environments. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci.
Table 1. Relative seedling height and fresh weight for 5-week old 'Yolo
Wonder' peppers grown with single nutrient elements omitted from nutrient
Nutrient Relative height (% of control) Relative weight (% of control)
omitted Perlite Myakka f.s.-Peat Perlite Myjakka f.s.-Peat
Non-control 100 100 100 100
N 15 21 0.2 3.9
P 19 30 2.9 18
K 53 58 12 22
Ca 43 76 54 75
Mg 31 121 18 79
S 24 84 78 122
B 31 61 12 61
Cu 94 97 103 110
Fe 44 113 87 71
Mn 128 103 116 118
Zn 59 110 85 113
LSD, 5% 7.7 25.0 6.9 17.9