Early warning signs:
As nutrient burn progresses, it’ll move from the very tips of the leaves back and inward. It’s this point that action must be taken in order to maintain a healthy plant, because nutrient burn left unchecked will continue to progress until entire leaves die and drop off.
Before more balanced fertilization can be applied, the overabundance of nutrients already built up need to be flushed out. In a hydroponic setup, that entails emptying out all reservoirs and filling them up with pH-balanced water. That water should be run through the system for at least 24 hours, with the system’s electrical conductivity (EC) levels being checked daily until the proper fertilizer salt levels are reached.
Nutrient Burn – How to Spot Overfertilization and Nip “Nute Burn” in the Bud
Plants don’t have a mechanism to deal with “overfeeding,” and so plants taking in more nutrients than they can handle get sick. There are a number of reasons that might happen, including unrelated illnesses or pests damaging the plant. It could also be the result of an environment that’s simply too nutrient-rich, to begin with. In any case, a plant receiving an overabundance of nutrients will begin to suffer from nutrient burn, and, left unchecked, the consequences can be devastating.
What is nutrient burn?
While nutrient burn can sneak up on even the most experienced growers, it’s normally a side-effect of inexperience. Damage from nutrient burn isn’t reversible, but luckily, the obvious symptoms it produces mean it can be caught relatively quickly and stopped before any further damage occurs.
There are some early warning signs that can alert growers to a buildup of nutrients in the plant prior to burning. Those warning signs include:
- An extreme deep green coloration to leaves
- Bending at the tips of leaves
- A slight yellowing or browning at the very tips of leaves
Spotting And Resolving Nutrient Burn In Your Indoor Growing Operation.
If you don’t have a TDS meter to measure the levels of nutrients (and other extra stuff) in your water, I would normally start your plants with a fraction (perhaps 1/2) of the nutrients you were giving them before – and then work your way up to higher nutrient levels only if you notice the lower leaves are starting to yellow too quickly (nitrogen deficiency). Even then, try to move up nutrient levels as slowly as you can. If you lose leaves to a nitrogen deficiency from slightly too-low nutrient levels, you will lose a few of the least important lower leaves. But if you raise nutrient levels to fast and get nutrient burn, all the leaves on the whole plant will be affected and never recover fully.
Hand-watered system – If you are growing in a handwatered system (like in soil or coco coir), flush your system with plain, pH’ed water if you notice the first signs of nutrient burn. (Learn about pH). If you are not adding any extra nutrients in your grow, then you simply need to wait until the plant uses all the excess nutrients in the soil – after the nutes have been used up, the plant will naturally get over the nute burn (old leaves won’t recover, but leaves should no longer be getting new brown or burnt tips).
That’s why budding cannabis plants need extra care to thrive – in the flowering stage, a little bit of nutrient burn will probably be okay, but too much nutrient burn can seriously hurt yields because the plant will not be able to recover. If you are adding nutrients to your water, it can be very easy to burn your plants in the flowering stage (even with nutrient levels it was fine with before) as different strains have different needs throughout budding.
Your leaves are like solar panels, and the energy produced by the leaves is used as energy for the whole plant. You need the leaves to be in tip-top shape to get the most energy from the lights, so your plant has plenty of energy to grow and produce buds.
Luckily, there is an awesome tool to make this much easier in hydro.
Sometimes you’ll also see nutrient burn leaf tips also curl or “claw”. The clawing can be caused by an overabundance of Nitrogen (Nitrogen Toxicity), which is common for plants that are experiencing nutrient burn from overall high levels of nutrients.
(Sometimes Mistaken for Nutrient Burn)
Why Growers Should Try to Prevent Marijuana From Getting Nutrient Burn
To find out more about using a TDS meter to measure nutrients in your water, check out our article: PPM: What It Is and How To Track It.
Nutrient burn causes the tips of cannabis leaves to turn yellow or brown. The burnt tips are the result of too-high levels of nutrients. Learn how to fix it!