The 30 Signs your Plants are having Sulfur Deficiency

Plants need a healthy balance of 17 essential nutrients for proper growth. Out of these 17 essential nutrients, sulfur comes in as the 4th most important. It doesn’t matter whether you’re planting fruits, vegetables, grains, or pasture crops, they’ll all need a sufficient amount of sulfur to become bountiful.

That said:

This doesn’t mean you can just give sulfur to your plants on the first sign of slowing growth. Too much sulfur can harm your plants and your soil. So, it’s critical to know when you should use sulfur or not. 

Watch for These Sulfur Deficiency Signs

Fruits, vegetables, grains, and pasture crops will display different signs of sulfur deficiency. Below we’ve listed down the most common examples for each type of crop and what sulfur deficiency looks like for each of them. 


1. Apple 

  • Reduced leaf growth
  • Pale green/yellow colored leaves
  • Chlorotic leaves with necrotic blotches near the margin. Chlorosis is the loss of green color which results in pale yellow tissue.

Note that nitrogen deficiency can also produce similar symptoms but starts at older leaves. 

2. Banana

  • Chlorosis in young leaves but turning green as they age
  • The youngest uncurled leaves turn yellowish-white if deficiency continues
  • Chlorosis is more apparent with pale stripes becoming visible between the veins
  • Growth is retarded
  • Produces small fruits

3. Pineapple

  • Chlorosis in younger leaves turning them yellowish-green
  • Margins in older leaves turn pinkish-red 
  • Pinkish-red discoloration eventually spreads to all the leaves
  • Does not produce fruits or flowers

4. Melons

  • Chlorosis in younger leaves showing a yellowish-pale green color
  • Older leaves may display small sunken dots throughout the leaf blade
  • Older leaves will have light brown blotches at their margin
  • Slowed growth overall


5. Cabbage

  • Chlorosis in younger leaves turning them yellowish-green
  • Head forming is slowed or inhibited altogether
  • The crop will have signs of fungal infections
  • White cabbage produces succulent but brittle leaf tissue
  • Delayed plant development and stunted growth. Overall growth retardation.

6. Lettuce

  • Uniform chlorosis in younger leaves. They’ll show a yellow-green color
  • The whole plant eventually turns light green or yellow overall
  • All-around development is inhibited and growth stunted. 

7. Tomato

  • The plant will show chlorosis in various parts
  • Petioles (the stalk that connects the leaf blade to the stem) and stems will show signs of reddening
  • The plant itself will look more yellowish in color than normal
  • Clear growth inhibition and stunted size


8. Corn or Maize

  • The leaves will show chlorosis in their veins 
  • This chlorosis is evident along the entire length of the leaves and more obvious in the younger upper leaves
  • Eventually, there will be a reddening of the base of the stem as well as along the leaf margins

9. Rice

  • Chlorosis will be evident in the leaf sheath and leaf blade. It will look yellowish
  • The whole plant may look yellowish at the time of tillering
  • Obvious stunted growth
  • Tillers reduced in number
  • Fewer and stunted panicles (a branch of flower heads)
  • Fewer spikelets/grains compared to normal plants

10. Sorghum

  • Chlorosis in young leaves that will be shorter and more erect than normal
  • Young leaves will first turn pale green and remain green as they grow older
  • Older leaves will turn pale green in case of severe deficiency

11. Wheat

  • Prominent chlorosis between the leaf veins
  • Older leaves will remain green
  • Chlorosis will be clear in the plant as a whole

Pasture Crops 

12. Blackgram

  • Chlorosis will be evident in the young leaves starting at the tips and spreading along the margin
  • During the onset of sulfur deficiency, young leaves will be extremely chlorotic when they emerge
  • Stems slowly become thin and woody
  • The plant shows an overall bushy appearance

13. Chickpeas

  • Plants with sulfur deficiency will be more erect than normal plants
  • Young leaves will show signs of premature drying and withering
  • The entire leaf mass will eventually turn chlorotic
  • Seed setting and nodulation is severely restricted 

14. Cowpea

  • Young leaves are chlorotic and turn pale. New leaves are chlorotic and refuse to expand
  • Leaf size is reduced 
  • Flowering is delayed
  • The number of pods is reduced and economic yield is low
  • Overall growth is stunted with short internodes 

15. French Bean

  • Shorter internodes
  • Fewer and smaller sized leaves
  • Pale green colored leaves
  • Retarded growth and low yield

16. Green Gram

  • Poor branching
  • Foliage shows a bushy appearance
  • Drastically reduced number of flowers and pods
  • Seeds are shrunken
  • Overall stunted growth

17. Groundnut

  • Young plants are smaller, pale, and more erect from the petiole than normal plants
  • Trifoliate leaves appear V-shaped
  • Younger leaves will have a pale area around the main vein
  • Older leaves can remain green
  • Nodulation and pod formulation is stunted and seed maturity is delayed

18. Horsegram

  • The whole foliage turns pale
  • Interveinal chlorosis in the leaflets of young leaves
  • Chlorosis spread from young to older leaves with severe sulfur deficiency

19. Pea

  • The youngest leaves become pale
  • Young leaves eventually develop chlorosis in interveinal areas
  • Chlorosis spreads from young leaves to middle leaves and older leaves
  • Nitrogen fixation leading to root nodulation
  • Reduced flowering and, therefore, yield

20. Pigeon Pea

  • Yellowing starts from the youngest leaves and spreads to the middle leaves
  • Suppressed branching, leaf size, and flowering
  • Flowers lose their normal yellow color and shed early
  • Retarded pod formation and, therefore, seed development

21. Soybean

  • Young leaves turn and remain a pale-yellowish green in color
  • Leaves are smaller and internodes are reduced
  • Chlorosis starts from leaf margins then spreads inwards
  • The entire plant turns yellow under severe sulfur deficiency
  • This leads to premature leaf fall, reduced flowering, and fruiting


22. Coconut

  • Chlorosis in leaflets that become yellowish-green or yellowish-orange in color
  • The leaves will droop down as stems become weaker
  • Leaf number and size are reduced even in older palms
  • Weakness of the rachis (axis or shaft) resulting in an apron of dead fronds developing around the stem
  • Prematurely falling nuts
  • The copra (kernel) is rubbery and of poor market quality

23. Coffee

  • Chlorosis in the youngest pairs of leaves resulting in a yellow coloration
  • Newer leaves are smaller in size and more chlorotic than mature leaves
  • Mature leaves will also show signs of chlorosis
  • Interveinal tissue can develop a mottled appearance due to severe chlorosis

24. Cotton

  • New leaves will show persistent yellowing due to chlorosis
  • There’s evident reddening of the petiole
  • Older leaves may suffer chlorosis first

25. Linseed

  • Young and topmost leaves will show evidence of yellowing, curling, and drying of their tips
  • Older leaves gradually develop chlorosis as well
  • The stem remains slender with poor branching 
  • A reduced number of floral buds, with most of them failing to open

26. Oil Palm

  • Seedlings will have small pale-green to almost white fronds
  • Fronds will show some interveinal streaking
  • Older leaves develop necrotic (dead tissue) spots followed by terminal necrosis

27. Potato

  • The youngest leaves will show clear inward curling
  • Evident yellowing of the stems
  • The plant will generally have a chlorotic appearance

28. Rapeseed Mustard

  • Leaves will be cupped 
  • Reddening of leaf undersides and stems
  • Flowers abort prematurely leading to poor pod formation
  • Inhibited oil content in seeds brought about by sulfur deficiency
  • Lowers economic yield as a whole

29. Rubber

  • Entire leaves can turn yellowish-green in color
  • Leaves are smaller in size and have brown necrotic spots at the tip and sometimes all over their surface
  • Young leaf shoots are affected first

30. Sesame

  • Leaves are smaller and first turn pale (when they emerge) then turn golden yellow
  • Reduced number of flowers and pods resulting in lower economic yield
  • Overall growth retardation

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