Diagnosing manganese deficiency in wheat

Manganese deficiency in wheat is widespread but confined to small soil related patches that have declined as soils have acidified.

Severely deficient plants collapse and die
Leaves initially develop interveinal chlorosis
Middle leaves are affected first
Patches of pale floppy wheat in otherwise healthy crop

What to look for


  • Manganese deficiency often appears as patches of pale, floppy wheat in an otherwise green healthy crop.


  • Frequently plants are stunted and occur in distinct patches.
  • Initially, middle leaves are affected first, but it can be difficult to determine which leaves are most affected as symptoms rapidly spread to other leaves and the growing point.
  • Leaves develop interveinal chlorosis and/ or white necrotic flecks and blotches.
  • Leaves often kink, collapse and eventually die.
  • Tillering is reduced, with extensive leaf and tiller death. With extended deficiency, the plant may die.
  • Surviving plants produce fewer and smaller heads.

What else could it be

Condition Similarities Differences
Diagnosing zinc deficiency in wheat Pale plants with interveinal chlorosis and kinked leaves Differences include linear 'tramline' necrosis on zinc deficient plants. Manganese deficient plants are more yellow and wilted
Diagnosing nitrogen deficiency in wheat Pale plants Nitrogen deficient plants do not show wilting, interveinal chlorosis, leaf kinking and death
Diagnosing waterlogging in cereals Pale plants Waterlogged plants do not show wilting, interveinal chlorosis, leaf kinking and death
Diagnosing iron deficiency in cereals Pale plants New leaves are affected first and plants do not die
Diagnosing sulphur deficiency in cereals Pale plants New leaves are affected first and plants do not die

Where does it occur?

Soil type
Soil type
Soil ph
Soil ph
Dry conditions
Dry conditions
  • Deficiency tends to occur on coastal alkaline soils and high phosphorus retention index (PRI), water repellent gravels associated with wandoo powderbark wandoo, brown and blue mallet and blue mallee vegetation.
  • This occurs in an area south of Moora to Katanning and east from Corrigin to Dumbleyung, and infrequently on the Esperance sandplain and mallee area north of Esperance.
  • Manganese deficiency is exacerbated by dry soil, high soil pH, alkaline fertilisers and root pruning herbicides (particularly groups A and B).

Management strategies

Spraying foliar
Spraying foliar
Soil application
Soil application
  • Foliar spray.
  • Acidifying ammonium nitrogen fertilisers can reduce manganese deficiency by lowering pH and making manganese more available to growing crops.
  • Manganese fertiliser is effective but expensive as high rates and several applications are required to generate residual value.
  • Seed manganese coating treatments have little effect in correcting the deficiency.

How can it be monitored?

Tissue test
Tissue test
  • A whole-top plant test of 17 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) gives a rough indication of deficiency.
  • Use youngest emerged blade test for accurate manganese levels,with levels less than 15 parts per million (ppm) an indicator of manganese deficiency.
  • Compare paired good/poor plant samples where possible.
  • There is no reliable soil test for manganese in cereals. As soil test manganese is generally poorly related to grain yield increase, a critical concentrations can't be determined.

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: Thursday, 20 July 2017 - 1:37pm