Too Much of Some Fert? Update with Lab Test Results - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-03-2020, 07:03 PM Thread Starter
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Too Much of Some Fert? Update with Lab Test Results

Bottom line up front: Manganese bottomed out, and I probably have more K than is necessary.

About 18 months ago I started the thread, Too Much of Some Fert? https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...some-fert.html

I was noticing much slower growth than normal across nearly 20 species in a 155-gallon tank with BDBS substrate, about 6-8 months after switching from very low CSM-B/DPTA dosing to a custom micro mix. Naturally, the first thing to check is CO2, flow and light, but I had done that multiple times. I got a 1.0 pH drop or more in area farthest away from the filter output, improved flow and O2 compared to earlier years where I got much better growth, kept lighting moderate (except a few times where I would blast the BML strip to try to induce some growth). I didn’t have problems with BBA or tip stunting, and virtually no algae problems at all. Had a little BGA emerge in spots, but it wouldn’t spread much and it went away. Root growth was all white and looked fine. Yet, little to no growth in most plants. Pearling was usually observed. Dosing was ½ to full EI on macros, and most often ¼ to ½ EI on Fe/custom trace mix, using various Burr formulas. I had issues in the past with CSM-B like Burr, and since AR was an affected plant here, I wanted to be careful on micros. I also had some O+ in the substrate. I changed 50-70% water weekly.

Most affected:
Lymnophila Rugosa
Persicaria Sao Paulo
Acmella Repens
Giant Hygro
Lymnophila Belem (some growth, but all green)
Ammania Senegalensis (got rid of it eventually)
Pogo Erectus (got rid of it eventually)
AR Mini and Regular
Anubias, Buce, Java Fern, Broadleaf Sagittaria and Crypts (for the most part) didn’t have issues.

Things that didn’t help at all:

1. Putting AR and Ammania Senegalensis in pots of garden soil and generous O+. Nothing happened at all to either plant.
2. Floating plants at the surface
3. Full O+ and Osmocote N/P/K in substrate under affected plants. Didn’t notice any difference.

What partially worked – cleaning the whole tank, uproot and vacuum everything. Clean filters. This helped L Rugosa immediately, and I saw some very slow growth in Acmella Repens emerge, but not as fast as before.

Fast forward to a couple months ago, and I really focused on what plants were telling me. Hygro was full of pinholes with a lot of leaf shedding. Slow growth and deteriorating old leaves on stems (partly due to never needing to top them off) pointed to K and mobile nutrients, so I would add 10-15 ppm K at water change, plus the K from KNO3. I added some extra Zn to eliminate that as a limited mobile trace element. Hygro got worse, and shed everything but the top 1-2 nodes. Never seen it look so bad, and I was sure there was adequate K. AR mini and regular were not stunted but also not growing at all. Leaf tips would curl down in several species, so I got a Ca test and normally measured between 30-40 ppm.

I decided to follow Surf’s advice and get the water tested by ICP Analysis. I sent a tank sample, which had two macro and two micro doses since the last water change. This would give me an idea of what was in the tank, and hopefully point to a smoking gun, so to speak. Here are the results, all in ppm:

Ca – 29.2
Mg – 15.06
K – 40.53
P – 2.29
Fe – 0.061
Mn – 0.00 (this was the biggest shock-I always had 1:3 to 1:5 ratio with Fe in the mix)
Zn – 0.086
B – 0.14
Mo – 0.012
Cu – 0.012
Ni – 0.007
Na – 6.56
Cl – 8.38
S – 38.4

Conclusions: Tap probably has some Zn, B and Cu that isn’t showing in the local water report. My scale might not be accurate in the 20-50 mg range, and that range is what I measure Cu, Mo and Ni for the trace mix. Would probably be better to make a solution of those with hundreds of mg in it, and then use a portion for the trace mix. Could Mn deficiency be the smoking gun here? Easy enough to add some and see… The test also shows I have more K than needed, and I could increase PO4 some more. ICP-Analysis doesn’t measure NO3, but I have the Salifert kit for that. Based on these lab numbers, I probably have 10-15 ppm NO3 based on my ratio of dosing with PO4. Salifert reads higher than that normally – for me it would show 15-25 ppm. Since Mn and Fe assist with K uptake, perhaps a relative shortage of those are contributing to the hygro pinholes and leaf shedding. Anyway, I’m very glad I got the test. I never would have guessed that Mn would be zero! I wonder how I'm getting growth in anything if Mn is zero, though.
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2020, 06:42 AM
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My guess for why you are getting growth in some plants is because some plants hog all the Mn to themselves. You are adding it after all. It's just getting used up very quickly. Look at the analysis however, it seems like you are dosing way too lean on micros. Maybe double or triple whatever you are doing will help. I have found in my experience some plants take to lean micro dosing better than others. Just as some plants can handle lean macro dosing more than others. Limnophila, nymphaea, glossostigma, ludwigia et al severely stunt when I do not dose full EI micronutrients.

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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2020, 11:28 AM
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I can't wait for updates now after you add more Mn. I have never had luck with AR myself and so curious what my parameters are. I've been doing a 1/2 micro dose recently and everything is growing great except AR.

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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2020, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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I can't wait for updates now after you add more Mn. I have never had luck with AR myself and so curious what my parameters are. I've been doing a 1/2 micro dose recently and everything is growing great except AR.
Yeah, I can't wait to see what happens with adding Mn. I'm really surprised Osmocote and garden soil didn't do anything to help it. It looked exactly the same after 5-6 weeks. The best AR I ever grew was with DIY CO2 on a 55 gallon tank with fluorite. I had to constantly battle green water, but I was throwing stems away I had so much. Two T5 normal output bulbs, and two T8s on it, including one actinic. I can't remember if it was before or after I got CSM-B from Greg Watson back around 2005-6. It was a well-stocked tank - maybe it was some ammonia causing green water and great growth, I don't know.

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My guess for why you are getting growth in some plants is because some plants hog all the Mn to themselves. You are adding it after all. It's just getting used up very quickly. Look at the analysis however, it seems like you are dosing way too lean on micros. Maybe double or triple whatever you are doing will help. I have found in my experience some plants take to lean micro dosing better than others. Just as some plants can handle lean macro dosing more than others. Limnophila, nymphaea, glossostigma, ludwigia et al severely stunt when I do not dose full EI micronutrients.
Agree - I should have listened to Burr two years ago when he recommended starting with 0.15 Fe 3-4 times a week. I tried some higher doses like that on occasion, but it seemed like things tended to go south after that. Maybe CO2 then became limiting, I don't know. Plus, with AR having no growth at all, and knowing it is somewhat sensitive to traces, I didn't want to dose too much. I though I might have something too high in the tap. Anyway, I'm really glad I got the test. Now I know for sure what's going on. I never had stunting of Ludwigia Repens or Palustris, though. Perhaps they were the ones eating up the Mn...
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2020, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by aclaar877 View Post
Bottom line up front: Manganese bottomed out, and I probably have more K than is necessary.

About 18 months ago I started the thread, Too Much of Some Fert? https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...some-fert.html

Conclusions: Tap probably has some Zn, B and Cu that isn’t showing in the local water report. My scale might not be accurate in the 20-50 mg range, and that range is what I measure Cu, Mo and Ni for the trace mix. Would probably be better to make a solution of those with hundreds of mg in it, and then use a portion for the trace mix. Could Mn deficiency be the smoking gun here? Easy enough to add some and see… The test also shows I have more K than needed, and I could increase PO4 some more. ICP-Analysis doesn’t measure NO3, but I have the Salifert kit for that. Based on these lab numbers, I probably have 10-15 ppm NO3 based on my ratio of dosing with PO4. Salifert reads higher than that normally – for me it would show 15-25 ppm. Since Mn and Fe assist with K uptake, perhaps a relative shortage of those are contributing to the hygro pinholes and leaf shedding. Anyway, I’m very glad I got the test. I never would have guessed that Mn would be zero! I wonder how I'm getting growth in anything if Mn is zero, though.
First: thank you for following up. We seldom see this.

The federal government does not require water companies to monitor boron or zinc …so they usually don’t. Copper is a function of pipes within your building, so water companies only gather data for reporting purpose to the EPA, who are trying to determine if a standard is necessary.

While your micros may be the choke point, it will be interesting to see if you do get a response, from the plants, after increasing them. Please be sure to post results.

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Look at the analysis however, it seems like you are dosing way too lean on micros.
Other than Mn, I was going to say that the other micros were on the heavy side already. What is your target for B, Zn, Cu and Mo?
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2020, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Other than Mn, I was going to say that the other micros were on the heavy side already. What is your target for B, Zn, Cu and Mo?
All the trace mixes have been in generally followed Burr and others that are making their own custom micro mixes. Going a little from memory here, since I've been doing it for two years now.

Fe: 0.15 to 0.2 ppm
Zn: 0.03 to 0.04 ppm
B: 0.03 to 0.04
Cu: 0.001 to 0.002 ppm
Mo: 0.001 to 0.002 ppm

Early on I had Mn at a 2:1 ratio with Fe, and subsequently lowered it to a 4:1.

About a week before the test I added 0.08 ppm Zn, doubling down on mobile nutrients since all the problems pointed to that. Didn't seem to do anything, for better or worse. Half of that would have contributed to the test reading, since there was a water change in between. With copper, there must be some in the pipes. I have a spigot in the basement and it is only used for the aquarium, so water sits in the pipes all week. I will flush it out in the future before running the hose to the aquarium.

The higher levels of Cu, Mo and Ni could be due to the scale not being accurate at very low milligram levels. For my mix I need very little, and the scale pretty much jumps from 0 to 30 mg as soon as it registers anything, and that's about the amount I need to measure those elements. I should probably dilute a larger dry amount, then add a portion of that to the trace mix.

In previous years tap reports, there have also been some values for B and Mo in the tap, but not in the most recent year or two. Perhaps there is a little bit remaining, but below reporting thresholds.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-04-2020, 11:50 PM
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First: thank you for following up. We seldom see this.

The federal government does not require water companies to monitor boron or zinc …so they usually don’t. Copper is a function of pipes within your building, so water companies only gather data for reporting purpose to the EPA, who are trying to determine if a standard is necessary.

While your micros may be the choke point, it will be interesting to see if you do get a response, from the plants, after increasing them. Please be sure to post results.



Other than Mn, I was going to say that the other micros were on the heavy side already. What is your target for B, Zn, Cu and Mo?
I am still in the camp that we are still far from the operating limit for micros and that micro tox is actually induced gas limitation. See recipes for Hoagland's solution, Murashige Skoog and other plant media. Even nutrient sensitive species like cactus and orchid grow well on these media at 1/2 or 1/4 dilutions. The resulting concentrations are also far and above what we use still.

Even if you don't believe that, iron at 61ppb seems low, and the others are still below 1/5-1/4 hoagland's solution strength. I am in the camp of keeping things simple. Why try to turn many knobs by individually dosing traces when you can just dose more of all of them.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-05-2020, 01:38 AM
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I am still in the camp that we are still far from the operating limit for micros and that micro tox is actually induced gas limitation.
Interesting. Please explain “induced gas limitation”

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See recipes for Hoagland's solution, Murashige Skoog and other plant media. Even nutrient sensitive species like cactus and orchid grow well on these media at 1/2 or 1/4 dilutions. The resulting concentrations are also far and above what we use still.
I’ve looked at those and they seem very high for our hobby, but they were designed for terrestrial application. I’ve considered Hoagland at 10%, but my own mix is quite close to that 10%. I’ve dosed at approximately two times the full Hoagland strength (it was an ‘ooops’ moment), without realizing it, and my plants began a severe new-growth destruction within days (micro toxicity is possible).

Have you tried Hoagland at 25-50%?

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Even if you don't believe that, iron at 61ppb seems low, and the others are still below 1/5-1/4 hoagland's solution strength.
I’m currently at .1ppm Fe daily, so .06 doesn’t seem unusual. What are your daily micro dosing levels and are there other factors that you have found support it, i.e.; high macro dosing, ultra-high PAR, etc.?
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-05-2020, 03:24 AM
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Interesting. Please explain “induced gas limitation”



I’ve looked at those and they seem very high for our hobby, but they were designed for terrestrial application. I’ve considered Hoagland at 10%, but my own mix is quite close to that 10%. I’ve dosed at approximately two times the full Hoagland strength (it was an ‘ooops’ moment), without realizing it, and my plants began a severe new-growth destruction within days (micro toxicity is possible).

Have you tried Hoagland at 25-50%?



I’m currently at .1ppm Fe daily, so .06 doesn’t seem unusual. What are your daily micro dosing levels and are there other factors that you have found support it, i.e.; high macro dosing, ultra-high PAR, etc.?

I am still doing the 1ppm weekly dose espoused by EI fans. Using whatever premade mix NilocG sells. Sometimes I will dose 1ppm of Fe on top of that if the plants look anemic. I am running a lot of light on a 22g 1' deep tank (UNS Titan 1, 90W). For some time I was trying Murashige Skoog type micro dosing at 1/2 strength and this was not working. The next few words are my BELIEFS based on my anecdotal experience.

I believe increased micro dosing allows the plant to utilize CO2 beyond what can be provided by the transport rate across a liquid film. Furthermore, you run into photorespiratory inhibition in this regime as well. I base this on a few examples:

1. Emersed growth is not in a gas limited regime and can tolerate extraordinarily high levels of fertilization, including foliar spray.
2. In the lab I work in we grow sensitive plant tissue in Hoagland or MS type solutions without problem. In plant cells that grow in liquid suspension, ample constant agitation is required or the cells will suffocate to death.
3.The phenotype of a low-microdosed plant and a high microdosed plant is different, at least in hygrophila and rotala. In my experience, you can observe more cellophane-thin leaves in lean micro plants. Thin leaves tend to permit better gas exchange than thicker, more robust leaves you get when you grow in the high micro regime. I do not know if this is because the micro-starved leaves are just thinner or the plant "Expects" more gas so it ramifies itself.
4. In my hands dosing high levels of micros. The stunted growth can often by overcome by increasing CO2. However, there is a limit to what you can get away with.

My opinion is that CO2 gas deficiency is just less aesthetically pleasing than whatever deficiency people are inducing with lean micro dosing. I do not have the wherewithal to do the testing to justify this belief as it would require ICP analysis and selective micronutrient depletion but I have found a system that works for me.

I do not know how to reconcile these opinions with the observation that high KH with high micros causes stunting ( I have observed this as well), but I have not thought too much about it.

edit: I do wonder what literature exists that examines the effect of bicarbonate in the water on the partial pressure of CO2. In my processes class I think there may have been mention of using bicarbonate slurries to adsorb CO2. But I may be mistaken. Maybe higher KH lowers pCO2 and therefore the driving force?

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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-05-2020, 04:54 AM
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Conclusions: Tap probably has some Zn, B and Cu that isn’t showing in the local water report. My scale might not be accurate in the 20-50 mg range, and that range is what I measure Cu, Mo and Ni for the trace mix. Would probably be better to make a solution of those with hundreds of mg in it, and then use a portion for the trace mix.
Your local water quality report is not required to show all element levels int eh water. Most often they just show the elements most people are concerned with and the ones the EPA requires.

agree Zn is high enough that you probably could eliminate it from your mix if the high reading is consistent throughout the year. B looks fine to me. I typically dose b and Zn at 0.02ppm As to CU your level is very close to my dose. I would not worry about it bing too high. Mo and Ni are a little high but you should be OK at those levels. Making a solution of CU, Mo, and Ni should be more accurate. Yes K is high but everything else seems fine. Mn is definitely an issue.

The first time I had my water tested Mn and Cl were both zero. I quickly fixed Cl and saw improvement in and then increased Mn (by doing a daily dose of Mn) and again saw improvement. I then gradually cutting back on the number of days I dosed and the dosage amount So based on that a zero on Mn is not good. I was hopping by now to have figured out the needed dose for Mn in my tank by now. But for some reason that didn't work. the high demand that caused it to read zero doesn't seem to be present now. In fact I am back to using the leftover micro mix I was using when I discovered my Mn deficiency. Why I have no idea.

I think next time I do a lab test I am going to collect a sample just after the water change and fertilizer dose (all front loaded in to one dose during the week). And then I will take another water sample right before the next water change. That way I could calculate the daily consumption rate for all nutrients and then use that to calculate what the new micro mix will be. That should work better than gradually reducing the dose until you see problems.

Last edited by Surf; 02-05-2020 at 05:13 AM. Reason: edit
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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-05-2020, 02:50 PM
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I believe increased micro dosing allows the plant to utilize CO2 beyond what can be provided by the transport rate across a liquid film. Furthermore, you run into photorespiratory inhibition in this regime as well. I base this on a few examples:

1. Emersed growth is not in a gas limited regime and can tolerate extraordinarily high levels of fertilization, including foliar spray.
2. In the lab I work in we grow sensitive plant tissue in Hoagland or MS type solutions without problem. In plant cells that grow in liquid suspension, ample constant agitation is required or the cells will suffocate to death.
3.The phenotype of a low-microdosed plant and a high microdosed plant is different, at least in hygrophila and rotala. In my experience, you can observe more cellophane-thin leaves in lean micro plants. Thin leaves tend to permit better gas exchange than thicker, more robust leaves you get when you grow in the high micro regime. I do not know if this is because the micro-starved leaves are just thinner or the plant "Expects" more gas so it ramifies itself.
4. In my hands dosing high levels of micros. The stunted growth can often by overcome by increasing CO2. However, there is a limit to what you can get away with.

My opinion is that CO2 gas deficiency is just less aesthetically pleasing than whatever deficiency people are inducing with lean micro dosing. I do not have the wherewithal to do the testing to justify this belief as it would require ICP analysis and selective micronutrient depletion but I have found a system that works for me.
All interesting stuff. Weekly vs. daily dosing of micros, I believe, is a big factor and makes all the difference between dosing levels, especially under high consumption (as a function of PAR with sufficient CO2). Macros, I’ve found, are fine with weekly vs. daily, e.g.; a macro at 7ppm weekly performs as well at 1ppm daily. However, I’ve seen plant performance change when, e.g.; I go from a micro of 7ppm weekly to 1ppm daily (my KH is well below 1 dKH). This is probably a function of how low the micro dosing is, but if I load it to handle a full week, then I run into my belief that micro accumulation is going to get out of control at some point (may all be in my head).

I also wonder how much the accumulation of biofilm on the leaves (especially older growth) causes varying levels of photorespiratory inhibition.

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I do not know how to reconcile these opinions with the observation that high KH with high micros causes stunting ( I have observed this as well), but I have not thought too much about it.

edit: I do wonder what literature exists that examines the effect of bicarbonate in the water on the partial pressure of CO2. In my processes class I think there may have been mention of using bicarbonate slurries to adsorb CO2. But I may be mistaken. Maybe higher KH lowers pCO2 and therefore the driving force?
I’ve seen the same effect. Although I haven’t tried it, I wonder if the reverse is true, i.e.; will the same [low] micro levels that work at high KH levels work at low KH levels? It has probably been reported elsewhere.
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-15-2020, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Here is an update two weeks after getting the water test results with no Mn. Unfortunately, not that great. I dosed macros at 20/5/20 each week, and traces at 0.6 Fe for a weekly total. The only plant with a little improvement is regular AR. I'm seeing some vertical growth, but it's still about three inches tall and there are also three nubs not doing anything. Growth rate overall doesn't seem to have improved, and hygro corymbosa is doing absolutely awful, shedding leaves like mad and barely growing. I noticed some people listed that plant in the "What Stems Grow Fast For You" thread, so I must be doing something wrong, lol. I may need to put it in a higher flow area. Lymnophila Belem started to get hints of color after the first week, but now it's back to being totally light green. The only plants which I would say are doing "great" are buce and anubias.

Incidentally, I looked back at a journal I started last spring, and the tank looked so much better back then. https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/1...ectoritis.html

I should have looked at this sooner - I was surprised that my macro dosing was only 10 ppm NO3 and 2 ppm PO4 per week with no extra K. And micros were 0.5 ppm Fe (custom mix). I'd kill to have growth like this again! At the time I was trying to succeed with lythraceae and lots of other plants. I eventually ditched the lythraceae, subsequently had trouble with AR varieties, and thought the problem might be micros so I backed off those, which eventually got me to zero Mn in a lab test. I know macros shouldn't be that much of a problem, but if much lower macros worked in the past, maybe its worth trying again now. In the journal from March you can see 12 inch AR mini on the left side. Right now it's stuck at two inches, not stunted but not growing.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-16-2020, 09:56 PM
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I would keep up the increased micros and K dosing for another 2 weeks and see where that gets you. Just like you can fall sick in a day and take a week to get better it may take much longer to recover from nutrient deficiency than it did to cause it.

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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-19-2020, 02:43 PM
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Aclar877, are you measuring the Nitrate and Phosphate in your tank before you dose macros? Would be interesting to see what those dip down to in between doses... [edit] - oops! See that was answered in the original post- sorry!

“The test also shows I have more K than needed, and I could increase PO4 some more. ICP-Analysis doesn’t measure NO3, but I have the Salifert kit for that. Based on these lab numbers, I probably have 10-15 ppm NO3 based on my ratio of dosing with PO4. Salifert reads higher than that normally – for me it would show 15-25 ppm. Since Mn and Fe assist with K uptake, perhaps a relative shortage of those are contributing to the hygro pinholes and leaf shedding.’

Last edited by P.Isley; 02-20-2020 at 06:11 AM. Reason: Question was answered in initial post!
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