Effective management of nutrients is important both to achieve commercially optimal yields and quality characteristics of crops, and to minimise any negative environmental impacts from their use, especially of N & P. Nutrients are all invisible so assessments of crop nutrient sufficiencies depend on chemical analyses of crop tissues, and also of soils, manures and fertilisers. Crop foliage shows specific visible symptoms of some nutrient deficiencies. However, sub-clinical nutrient shortages are common and difficult to discern, so must be proven by empirical analyses and experiments. Applications of manures and fertilisers to avoid shortages of any nutrient are usually guided by decision rules (or recommendations) derived from such experiments and analyses, and from experiences of crop responses observed after previous nutrient applications.
Formal research into crop nutrition began in the 19th century and has proliferated globally ever since. Issues studied are far less dynamic than issues relating to, say, crop protection, hence a large literature exists relevant to the nutrition of modern crops.
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