Calcium Absorption Deficiencies Translocation in Hydroponics

calcium absorption translocation deficiencies hydroponics

Calcium Absorption Deficiencies Translocation in Hydroponics


It’s remarkably easy to miss the importance of calcium absorption deficiencies translocation in hydroponics gardening and to some extent, outdoor growing, especially in warmer temperatures. Even veteran indoor growers may not be aware of the fact that the largest portion in the dry weight of plant cells is calcium or the fact that it’s one of the hardest elements for plants to absorb-and even harder to send through the plant where it needs to go.


Did you also know that when plants are growing faster in warmer climates and in elevated carbon dioxide situations (in greenhouse or grow rooms to boost plant growth) there is an increased demand for calcium absorption by hydroponics crops that speed the need for calcium to be translocated to the actively growing parts of the plant like bud and root tips to keep the plants healthy?


Calcium is critical for the overall health and well being of the plant, particularly for crop diseases and pest resistance. Calcium, like silicon, is critical in maintaining the structural integrity of plant cells, especially when plant cells are actively dividing. Calcium cannot be moved (translocated) from one part of the plant to another when it is need more elsewhere. This makes it an immobile nutrient, in hydroponics terms. Elements like Nitrogen and Potassium are said to be mobile macro crop elements because they can move to another part of the plant if it is needed more there.


How Do You Know if Your Crop is Getting, Absorbing and Translocating Enough Calcium?


During warm weather and especially when plants are growing fast, for example in the early budding or flowering phase, yellow and wispy looking growing tips that produce slow soft growth is indicative of a calcium deficiency. In foliage crops, for example like hydroponic lettuce, scorching around the leaf tips and a higher incidence of bolting are a sign your plant is either not getting, absorbing or translocating calcium fast enough.

tip burn in lettuce crop

When plants are low on calcium, the tissue is soft and susceptible to diseases and is easier for insects to chew and penetrate.


Important Practical Consideration for Hydroponics Growers about Calcium in Crop Fertilizer Programs:


In coconut fibre (Coco Coir) based growing medium, which are popular for hydroponics systems and soil blends, the nature of the coconut coir has a tendency to “steal” calcium intended for the plant and hold onto it tightly, creating the potential for hydroponics crop deficiencies. This has to do with the strong natural Cation Exchange Capacity of coco coir, especially if not pre-charged with calcium and magnesium by the growing media supplier.


Solution: Add a Cal-Mag hydroponics nutrient supplement for the first few weeks when using a fresh batch of coco coir. Be sure to watch out for excessive nitrogen, an abundant element in popular hydroponics Cal-Mag supplements.


In warmer temperatures when water uptake is high, with fast growth rates for example in mid summer or warmer climates, calcium can become deficient because of low mobility in the plant rather than low availability at the roots.


Solution: To improve how quickly calcium is taken in by the plant roots from the nutrient solution or soil, additions of Fulvic Acid via blended hydroponics nutrient supplements can help improve how plants absorb and transport the calcium available to them. And to some extent non-ioninc surfactants (wetting agents) may also assist.


A well timed foliar spray of a friendly and readily available source of calcium is greatly improved with additions of fulvic acid hydroponics supplements-perfect for preventing tip burn in a variety of crops with proper timing and application methods. Tip burn reduce the sale value of lettuce crops.


Blossom Drop and Fruit End Rot in hydroponics tomato crops is also a symptom commonly associated with calcium deficiencies, when either not supplied in adequate levels or balanced levels in the hydroponic crop feeding program via mineral or organics fertilizers. It may also be deficient due to areas discussed above like temperature and mobility.


Solution: Supply adequate levels of calcium for the type of plant, growth phase in forms that can be easily absorbed, for example from good grades of calcium nitrate fertilizer materials. Excess Phosphorous, for example from over-use of bloom boosters can create issues with Calcium because they need to be supplied in balanced levels together.

tomato end rot disease

Did You Know?


Popular indoor hydroponics crops have the highest demand for calcium in the late vegetative and pre-flowering phases of growth before budding. Veg nutrients that are higher in calcium can help improve crop performance or Cal-Mag based hydroponics fertilizer supplements at these times with additions of fulvic acid containing nutrient supplements.


Main Image: Rock Nutrients Fusion Grow, a complete calcium rich hydroponics fertilizer.
About Erik Biksa 246 Articles
Erik Biksa has been writing about and discussing hydroponics growing, related technologies and cropping methods since 1999 in a variety of professional publications and platforms globally Erik has travelled the world learning and teaching modern growing techniques and technologies and is appreciated by many growers for his informative yet hands on approaches. Presently, he is the Editor at Grozine Hydroponics Mag.