IDENTIFYING PLANT PROBLEMS
Contributor: J.R. Baker, Extension Entomology Specialist
Diagnosing Plant Problems
Successful identification of plant abnormalities can be accomplished by following a systematic
approach. The compilation of as much information relating to the plant, symptoms, and the site is
essential to an accurate diagnosis.
Uniform damage may implicate
abiotic or non-living factors
such as light, temperature or moisture stress, traffic stress, phytotoxicity or herbicide damage,
nutritional, mechanical damage, or incorrect soil type or cultural conditions. Problems of this
type are discussed in this section.
- Identify the plant and its characteristic features.
- Examine the entire plant, noting the damage present as well as similarities in symptoms on
- Is there a general pattern present?
Nonuniform damage may indicate
biotic or living factors
such as disease or insects. It should be determined whether damage is similar on other plant
parts and surrounding plants. Indications of the presence of a pathogen or insect should be
identified. Both the upper and lower portions of leaves should be checked for evidence of foliar
Following is a list of general symptoms and possible causes of plant problems.
high-soluble salts, nematodes, root attacking insects, root rot pathogens, phytotoxicity, excessive
- Foliar Yellowing and Necrosis.
Foliar Wilting. Systemic plant pathogen (i.e. bacteria,
verticillium, etc.), root rot pathogen, high soluble salts, nematodes, root attacking insects, virus
Yellowing of Leaf Tissue (Chlorosis) at Margins.
Nutritional deficiency, nutrient toxicity, bacterial infection, phytotoxicity
Damage to growing tips.
Nutritional deficiency, phytotoxicity, insect damage, bud mite damage.
Planted too deep, phytotoxicity, herbicide damage, nutritional imbalance, poor soil type,
incorrect site for plant.
Viral infection, phytotoxicity, insect or mite damage, nutritional deficiency.
Foliar Discoloration or Spotting.
Phytotoxicity, excess micro-elements, nutritional deficiency, viral infection, foliar nematodes.
Source: J.F. Knauss
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Last Modified: 07/10/96