Plant nutrients

All plants require nutrients to survive and grow. Plants take nutrients from the air, the soil, and the water. Because you cannot see nutrients — they are colourless gases or are like dust dissolved in water or stuck onto each piece of soil — it is sometimes hard to understand how they work.

The quantity of nutrients available to the plants is affected by: • substrate quality • water quality • plant type.

Plant nutrition
There are 17 essential plant nutrients. Carbon and oxygen are absorbed from the air, while other nutrients including water are obtained from the soil. Plants must obtain the following mineral nutrients from the growing media:
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the primary macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) the three secondary macronutrients such as calcium (Ca), sulphur (S), magnesium (Mg). the macronutrient Silicon (Si) and micronutrients or trace minerals: boron (B), chlorine (Cl), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), molybdenum (Mo), nickel (Ni), selenium (Se), and sodium (Na).

The macronutrients are consumed in larger quantities and are present in plant tissue in quantities from 0.2% to 4.0% (on a dry matter weight basis). Micronutrients are present in plant tissue in quantities measured in parts per million, ranging from 5 to 200 ppm, or less than 0.02% dry weight. Most soil conditions across the world can provide plants with adequate nutrition and do not require fertilizer for a complete life cycle. However, man can artificially modify soil through the addition of fertilizer to promote vigorous growth and increase yield. The plants are able to obtain their required nutrients from the fertilizer added to the soil. A colloidal carbonaceous


So when nutrients are mobile. the nutrients will move from the more higher solute (soil) concentration to lower solute concentration (plant). known as humus. Nitrogen. usually ATP. Xylem moves water and inorganic molecules within the plant and phloem counts organic molecule transportation. while the others have varying degrees of mobility. can passively move through the lipid bilayer membrane without the use of transport proteins. is the active transport of ions or molecules against a concentration gradient that requires an energy source.) Active transport. Water potential plays a key role in a plants nutrient uptake. the stele in order for the nutrients to reach the conducting tissues. Besides lack of water and sunshine. Nutrient uptake in the soil is achieved by cation exchange. and potassium are mobile nutrients. the lack of nutrients is first visible on older leaves. to pump the ions or molecules through the membrane.residue. The structure and architecture of the root can alter the rate of nutrient uptake. Plant nutrition is a difficult subject to understand completely. For example. Nutrient ions are transported to the center of the root. Also a lowered availability of a given nutrient. where in root hairs pump hydrogen ions (H+) into the soil through proton pumps. a cell wall outside of the stele but within the root. 3. CO2. An abundance of one nutrient may cause a deficiency of another nutrient. not all nutrients are equally mobile. occurs when a nonpolar molecule. especially the root hair. such as O2. There are 3 fundamental ways plants uptake nutrients through the root: 1. partially because of the variation between different plants and even between different species or individuals of a given clone.) simple diffusion. such as SO2−4 can affect the uptake of another nutrient. and NH3 that follow a concentration gradient. This phenomenon is helpful in determining what nutrients a plant may be lacking. The Casparian strip.) facilitated diffusion. xylem and phloem. is the rapid movement of solutes or ions following a concentration gradient. a plant will try to supply more nutrients to its younger leaves than its older ones. The root. nutrient deficiency is a major growth limiting factor. An element present at a low level may cause deficiency symptoms. However. When a less mobile nutrient is lacking. can serve as a nutrient reservoir. the younger leaves suffer because the nutrient does not move up to them but stays lower in the older leaves. Nutrients are moved inside a plant to where they are most needed. These hydrogen ions displace cations attached to negatively charged soil particles so that the cations are available for uptake by the root. Also. such as NO3–. deficiency of one element may present as symptoms of toxicity from another element. If the water potential is more negative within the plant than the surrounding soils. prevents passive flow of water and nutrients to help regulate the uptake of nutrients and water. K+ uptake can be influenced by the amount NH4+ available. 2 . while the same element at a higher level may cause toxicity. Further. is the most essential organ for the uptake of nutrients. phosphorus. facilitated by transport proteins. 2.

Hypoxia can affect nutrient uptake of a plant because without oxygen present. developed by D. while a "film" thin layer of nutrient rich water is pumped through the system to provide nutrients and water to the plant. R. Though nitrogen is plentiful in the Earth's atmosphere.) Nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Cellular respiration is the process of generating energy-rich adenosine triphosphate (ATP) via the consumption of sugars made in photosynthesis. Carbon is fixed through photosynthesis from the carbon dioxide in the air and is a part of the carbohydrates that store energy in the plant. Plants produce oxygen gas during photosynthesis to produce 3 . which help to create a larger root surface area. animal waste. respiration becomes inhibited within the root cells.) mycorrhiza. The most common solution. Macro nutrients Carbon Carbon forms the backbone of many plants biomolecules. nitrogen fixing bacteria. and 2. It is obtained almost entirely from water. Hydroponics. Functions of nutrients Each of these nutrients is used in a different place for a different essential function. Hydrogen Hydrogen also is necessary for building sugars and building the plant. including starches and cellulose. Hoagland in 1933. the solution consists of all the essential nutrients in the correct proportions necessary for most plant growth. Hydrogen ions are imperative for a proton gradient to help drive the electron transport chain in photosynthesis and for respiration. is the Hoagland Solution. The roots are not fully submerged which allows for adequate aeration of the roots. Most plants therefore require nitrogen compounds to be present in the soil in which they grow. is growing plants in a water-nutrient solution without the use of nutrient-rich soil. relatively few plants engage in nitrogen fixation (conversion of atmospheric nitrogen to a biologically useful form).A symbiotic relationship may exist with 1. or through the agricultural application of purpose made fertilizers.[4] Oxygen Oxygen is necessary for cellular respiration. It allows researchers and home gardeners to grow their plants in a controlled environment. Both of these mutualistic relationships enhance nutrient uptake. These can either be supplied by decaying matter. like rhizobia which are involved with nitrogen fixation. The Nutrient film technique is a variation of hydroponic technique. An aerator is used to prevent an anoxic event or hypoxia.

Phosphorus can also be used to modify the activity of various enzymes by phosphorylation. older leaves will show the first signs of deficiency. and chlorosis. Nitrogen deficiency most often results in stunted growth. It serves as an activator of enzymes used in photosynthesis and respiration. As a component of ATP. phosphorus is important for plant growth and flower/seed formation. and can be used for cell signaling. Under most environmental conditions it is the limiting element because of its small concentration in soil and high demand by plants and microorganisms. Since ATP can be used for the biosynthesis of many plant biomolecules. Phosphate esters make up DNA. chlorosis. is useful to apply to perennials to help with successful root formation. Occasionally the leaves may appear purple from an accumulation of anthocyanin.glucose but then require oxygen to undergo aerobic cellular respiration and break down this glucose and produce ATP. Plants can increase phosphorus uptake by a mutualism with mycorrhiza. and phospholipids. K+ is highly mobile and can aid in balancing the anion charges within the plant. It also has high solubility in water and leaches out of soils that rocky or sandy that can result in potassium deficiency. Potassium deficiency may result in higher risk of pathogens. brown spotting. slow growth. RNA. Since stomata are important in water regulation. A Phosphorus deficiency in plants is characterized by an intense green coloration in leaves. Nitrogen deficient plants will also exhibit a purple appearance on the stems. such as bone meal. and higher chances of damage from frost and heat. but it is taken up most readily in the form of H2PO4. Most common in the form of polyprotic phosphoric acid (H3PO4) in soil. Potassium is used to build cellulose and aids in photosynthesis by the formation of a chlorophyll precursor. wilting. Potassium Potassium regulates the opening and closing of the stomata by a potassium ion pump. If the plant is experiencing high phosphorus deficiencies the leaves may become denatured and show signs of necrosis. Nitrogen Nitrogen is an essential component of all proteins. petioles and underside of leaves from an accumulation of anthocyanin pigements 4 . phosphorus is needed for the conversion of light energy to chemical energy (ATP) during photosynthesis. Potassium deficiency may cause necrosis or interveinal chlorosis. potassium reduces water loss from the leaves and increases drought tolerance. Phosphorus is limited in most soils because it is released very slowly from insoluble phosphates. Phosphorus Phosphorus is important in plant bioenergetics. Because phosphorus is a mobile nutrient. High phosphorus content fertilizers.

Calcium deficiency results in stunting. Because nitrogen is mobile. and synthesizing certain enzymes. a critical plant pigment important in photosynthesis. Some plants require more nitrogen than others. the older leaves exhibit chlorosis and necrosis earlier than the younger leaves. There are many other biological roles for magnesium Magnesium deficiency can result in interveinal chlorosis. Iron deficiency can result in interveinal chlorosis and necrosis. such as corn (Zea mays). secondary roles may be in sugar transport. and is essential in the manufacturing of chloroplasts. Soluble forms of nitrogen are transported as amines and amides Sulphur Sulphur is a structural component of some amino acids and vitamins.Most of the nitrogen taken up by plants is from the soil in the forms of NO3–. Magnesium Magnesium is an important part of chlorophyll. nitrogen is the limiting nutrient of high growth. Under many agricultural settings. Silicon Silicon is deposited in cell walls and contributes to its mechanical properties including rigidity and elasticity Micronutrients Iron Iron is necessary for photosynthesis and is present as an enzyme cofactor in plants. Boron Boron is important for binding of pectins in the RGII region of the primary cell wall. 5 . Calcium Calcium regulates transport of other nutrients into the plant and is also involved in the activation of certain plant enzymes. Boron deficiency causes necrosis in young leaves and stunting. It is important in the production of ATP through its role as an enzyme cofactor. cell division. Molybdenum Molybdenum is a cofactor to enzymes important in building amino acids. Amino acids and proteins can only be built from NH4+ so NO3– must be reduced.

Sodium can replace potassium's regulation of stomatal opening and closing. but at very low 6 . toxic levels of urea accumulate. A typical symptom of zinc deficiency is the stunted growth of leaves. Without Nickel. such as legumes where it is required for nitrogen fixation for the symbiotic relationship it has with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Necessary for proper photosythesis. It can also substitute for potassium in some circumstances. Involved in grain production. an enzyme involved with nitrogen metabolism that is required to process urea. It may also be substituting for molybdenum. Symptoms for copper deficiency include chlorosis. Manganese deficiency may result in coloration abnormalities. In lower plants. Involved in many enzyme processes. Chlorine Chlorine is necessary for osmosis and ionic balance. Sodium Sodium is involved in the regeneration of phosphoenolpyruvate in CAM and C4 plants.Copper Copper is important for photosynthesis. Manganese Manganese is necessary for building the chloroplasts. leading to the formation of necrotic lesions. Selenium and sodium may also be beneficial. it also plays a role in photosynthesis. Nickel activates several enzymes involved in a variety of processes. Cobalt has proven to be beneficial to at least some plants. Cobalt has proven to be beneficial to at least some plants. but is essential in others. and can substitute for Zinc and Iron as a cofactor in some enzymes. Involved in the manufacture of lignin (cell walls). commonly known as "little leaf" and is caused by the oxidative degradation of the growth hormone auxin. Vanadium may be required by some plants. Nickel is essential for activation of urease. Zinc Zinc is required in a large number of enzymes and plays an essential role in DNA transcription. but at very low concentrations. but is essential in others. Nickel In higher plants. Vanadium may be required by some plants. such as legumes where it is required for nitrogen fixation for the symbiotic relationship it has with nitrogen-fixing bacteria. such as discolored spots on the foliage.

It may also be substituting for molybdenum. or under given conditions.No substitution is occurred iii) Stimulate the growth. improve the taste of carrots by increasing sucrose Silicon (Si) Silicon is the second most abundant element in earth’s crust. horse tail (1015%) ii) Dryland graminae-sugar cane. has clear positive effects on plant growth. Higher plants differ characteristically in their capacity to take up silicon. improve the water balance iv) Na functions in metabolism a) C4 metabolism Impair the conversion of pyruvate to phosphoenol-pyruva Reduce the photosystem II activity and ultrastructural changes in mesophyll chloroplast v) Replacing K functions a) Internal osmoticum b) Stomatal function c) Photosynthesis d) Counteraction in long distance transport e) Enzyme activation vi) Improves the crop quality e. stomata. most of the cereal species and few dicotyledons species (1-3%) iii) Most of dicotyledons especially legumes (<0. Selenium and sodium may also be beneficial.a high proportion of K can be replaced by Na and stimulate the growth. which cannot be achieved by the application of K b) Group B-specific growth responses to Na are observed but they are much less distinct c) Group C-Only minor substitution is possible and Na has no effect d) Group D. while not required. 1939). this principle does not account for the so-called beneficial elements. 7 .g. Depending on their SiO2 content they can be divided into three major groups: i) Wetland graminae-wetland rice. cuticular transpiration rate in the organs.5%) iv) The long distance transport of Si in plants is confined to the xylem. Sodium (Na) Natrophilic Natrophobic Essentiality i) Essential for C4 plants rather C3 ii) Substitution of K by Na: Plants can be classified into four groups: a) Group A. Beneficial mineral elements Mineral elements which either stimulate growth but are not essential or which are essential only for certain plant species. whose presence. Sodium can replace potassium's regulation of stomatal opening and closing Some elements are directly involved in plant metabolism (Arnon and Stout. are usually defined as beneficial elements.increase leaf area. Its distribution within the shoot organ is therefore determined by transpiration rate in the organs v) The epidermal cell walls are impregnated with a film layer of silicon and effective barrier against water loss.concentrations. However.

perennial crop needs with plant analysis. Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms The preferred way to handle nutrient deficiencies is to identify annual crop needs with soil testing. such as iron and manganese. Nutrient deficiency symptoms are often the first clues to a nutrient problem within a field. However. and to correct the deficiencies before the crop is established or deficiency symptoms appear. preventing Mn and Fe toxicity. decreasing susceptibility to lodging. Mn or P toxicity effects ii) There have been reports that Al may serve as fungicide against certain types of root rot. Thus. soils are very variable in nutrient levels. is very complex and difficult to predict with a simple soil test. The requirement of Co for N2 fixation in legumes and non-legumes have been documented clearly 2. These visual symptoms are called deficiency symptoms. The possible reason is the prevention of Cu. It is still not clear whether Co has direct effect on higher plant Nickel (Ni) Required for some enzyme as metal components. such as high water tables. deficiencies of some nutrients can sometimes appear even with a good soil testing program. Plants which are under stress show unusual growth patterns or coloration. herbicide stress and varietal differences. These include decreasing mutual shading by improving leaf erectness. salt damage. drought.Beneficial effects i) Si can stimulate growth and yield by several indirect actions. Deficiencies can also be so slight that they are 8 . disease. Protein synthesis of Rhizobium is impaired due to Co deficiency 3. Portions of fields low in a certain nutrient may not show up in a normal composite soil sample. Cobalt (Co) 1. It is essential for the structure and functioning of the enzyme namely urease Aluminium (Al) i) Tea is very tolerance of Al toxicity and the growth is stimulated by Al application. Certain nutrient problems are sometimes so rare that regular soil analysis requests do not include testing for those nutrients. Deficiency symptoms can sometimes be confused with other complex field events. The chemistry of some nutrients.

Deficiencies are noticeable first on older tissue. The plant tissue browns and dies. or sometimes brown. Nitrogen. This can result in shorter height of the affected plants. but with the veins themselves remaining green. moving up the plant and giving the same appearance as if someone touched the bottom of the plants Interveinal Chlorosis Yellowing in between leaf veins.confused with other problems. If more than one deficiency is present. followed by rapid death of lower leaves. Plant immobile element 9 . The tissue which has already died on a still living plant is called necrotic tissue. Terminology of nutrient deficiencies Chlorosis General yellowing of the leaf tissue. Mobility of plant nutrients Plant nutrients which can move from places where they are stored to places where they are needed are called plant mobile. This is called necrosis. A very common deficiency symptom. this is called striping. Other colored compounds can then become dominant. since many nutrients affect the photosynthesis process directly or indirectly. The absence of chlorophyll altogether causes the plant to turn white. phosphorus and potassium are always plant mobile nutrients. one can be more dominant in its symptoms. Stunting Many deficiencies result in decreased growth. When normal nutrient sinks are not available. purple. In grasses. Firing Yellowing. Necrosis Severe deficiencies result in death of the entire plant or parts of the plant first affected by the deficiency. Coloration abnormalities Some deficiencies lower the amount of photosynthesis and chlorophyll which is produced by the plant. obscuring the symptoms of the other element. the plants can store up excess sugars within other compounds which have distinct colors of red. J. these elements are mostly immobile. 4–. William Hopkins. manganese. References Calcium and boron are always plant immobile nutrients. Under certain circumstances the intermediate elements are mobile. http://aesl. ISBN 9780824759049. ISBN 978-0-470-24766-2. Inc. Pilbeam (2007). Pages 68 and 69 Taiz and Zeiger Plant Physiology 3rd Edition 2002 ISBN 0-87893823-0 10 . Huner. pp. Introduction to Plant Physiology 4th Edition.htm Retrieved Jan. 3. 2010 4. D.uga. CRC Press.ces. http://books. Sulfur.A. John Wiley & Sons. Emanuel Epstein. zinc. Mineral Nutrition of Plants: Principles and Perspectives. 5. Retrieved 17 August 2010. Mobility in intermediate elements may be linked to the breakdown under low nitrogen conditions of amino acids and proteins in older parts of the plant. chloride. Barker. and the mobility of these organic compounds to younger parts of the plant in the phloem stream. Norman P. Under good nitrogen availability. Allen V. copper.deficiencies are noticeable first on younger tissue. iron and molybdenum are intermediate in plant Handbook of plant nutrition.

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