Diagnosing calcium deficiency in wheat

Calcium deficiency rarely occurs due to the application of single superphosphate fertilisers (containing 20% calcium), lime and gypsum. These factors would increase and/or maintain the calcium status of the soils. However, greatly reduced superphosphate use and long-term use of compound fertilisers may increase the likelihood of deficiency.


Dark green leaves with youngest leaf tip death
Torn and twisted young leaves
Reduced root growth (top image and probably only seen with severe deficiency

What to look for

  • Sandier more acidic parts of the paddock will be most affected.


  • Symptoms appear first on the youngest leaf and gradually spread to older growth.
  • Tips of new leaves go pale, then roll inwards, die and may twist back and tear off.
  • Base of affected leaves remains green and healthy.
  • Plants are stunted with short stout stems and erect dark green leaves.

What else could it be

Condition Similarities Differences
Diagnosing copper deficiency in wheat Youngest leaf twisting and death from the tip Copper deficient plants are light green rather than dark green and have shrivelled and rat-tail heads.
Diagnosing boron deficiency in wheat Youngest leaf death Boron deficient plants have water-soaked leaves with notched edges and that kink in the middle.

Where does it occur?

Soil type
Soil type
  • Calcium deficiency of crops typically occurs on sandy acidic soils with low exchangeable calcium. These soils are common in the cropping regions of South-Western Australia but cereal grain yield responses to applied fertiliser calcium have not been obtained in field experiments.
  • Calcium deficiency is exacerbated in acidic, sandy soils with high soluble aluminium.

Management strategies

Spreading gypsum
Spreading gypsum
  • Lime or gypsum are the cheapest sources of calcium.

How can it be monitored?

Tissue test
Tissue test
  • Use whole-top plant test to diagnose suspected calcium deficiency and compare paired good/poor plant samples where possible. Levels below 0.2% in whole shoots at the boot stage are adequate. In the youngest leaf a concentration of <0.12% is likely to reflect a deficiency.
  • There is no locally calibrated soil test for calcium.

Further information

Where to go for expert help

Craig Scanlan
+61 (0)8 9690 2174
DDLS Seed Testing and Certification
+61 (0)8 9368 3721
Page last updated: Monday, 20 April 2015 - 8:50am