We have an excellent article on our blog – What is Nutrient Deficiency and Nutrient Toxicity? – that explains how this condition leads to nutrient lockout.
Generally speaking, nutrient lockout is a condition in which plant roots cannot access the available nutrients in the growing medium. This means that, even when the nutrient supply is adequate, plants cannot absorb and utilize it. Therefore, nutrient lockout shows the same symptoms as nutrient deficiency. The reasons behind nutrient lockout can vary as follows:
- Nutrient lockout can occur when the pH at the root level is incorrect or fluctuating. The roots absorb nutrients through a process of “osmosis,” which is the transport of compounds from a highly concentrated environment (e.g., outside a root cell) towards a lower concentrated one (e.g., inside a root cell). An increase or decrease in the concentrations of H+ ions can alter the movement of nutrients through the root membrane.
- All-in-one, 1-part base nutrients can be a bad choice, as many compounds in them may react with each other. This is the reason many nutrients are unavailable to the roots.
- Chemical reactions between different nutrients can occur if the recommended method of application is not followed.
- Salt build-up may take place, affecting the movement of water across the root membrane, due to the high concentration of salt outside of it.
Nutrient lockout can be avoided by following a few simple measures:
- Dispose of old liquid feed containers.
- Use a leaching agent to get rid of metal and salt deposits from the tissues of plant roots and the growing medium; this is often suggested.
- After leaching, make sure the pH is within the optimal range for your plants.
- Check if the TDS (total dissolved solids), EC (electrical conductivity) or ppm (parts per million) measurements are within the recommended range.
- Feed plants a quarter-strength nutrient formulation mixed with a vitamin B1 product (for example, Emerald Goddess). Stay with this regimen until new growth is observed.
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