Functions of 13 mineral nutrients in plants
Plants require 16 elements for healthy growth and reproduction. The essential elements C, H, and O are supplied largely from the air (carbon dioxide and Oxygen) and water. The remaining 13 elements, usually referred to as mineral nutrients, are provided from several sources.
Let’s have a look at essential functions of all 13 mineral nutrients, along with their deficiency symptoms on leaves and the sources of these nutrients used to formulate the liquid fertilizer nutrient solutions.
Read about are your plants deficient in nutrients?
Major Nutrients – Following nutrients are required in more significant quantities:
1. Nitrogen (N):
Nitrogen is an essential element for plant growth and is found in many compounds. These include chlorophyll (the green pigment in plants), amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, and organic acids.
In the deficiency of nitrogen, mature leaves turn yellowish. Read about 5 reasons your plants are turning yellowish.
Nitrogen sources: Ammonium nitrate, Calcium nitrate, Potassium nitrate, Nitric acid.
2. Phosphorus (P)
Phosphorus is used in several energy transfer compounds in the plants. An essential function for P is its role in nucleic acids, the building blocks of the genetic code material in plant cells.
The deficiency symptoms are somewhat similar to nitrogen deficiency. The leaves start turning yellow and fall off prematurely. Read about abundant uses of fallen leaves.
Phosphorus sources: Monopotassium phosphate, Phosphoric acid.
Potassium is used as an activator in many enzymatic reactions in the plant. Another role for K in plants occurs in special leaf cells, called guard cells, found around the stomata. Guard cell turgor controls the degree of opening of the stomata.
The mature leaves show yellow areas followed by the withering of leaf edges and tips are seen in potassium deficient plants.
Potassium sources:Potassium sulphate, Monopotassium phosphate, Potassium magnesium sulphate, Potassium nitrate, potassium chloride.
Magnesium plays a vital role in plant cells since it appears in the center of the chlorophyll molecule. Certain enzymatic reaction requires Mg as a cofactor.
Yellow spots on old leaves appear in magnesium deficient plants.
Magnesium sources: Magnesium sulphate, Potassium magnesium sulphate
Sulfur is a component of sulfur-containing amino acids such as methionine.
New leaves turn yellowish in sulfur deficiency.
Sulfur sources: Magnesium sulphate, Potassium magnesium sulphate, Sulphuric acid.
Calcium is required for calcium pectate, which is essential in cell wall development. Also, Ca is used as a cofactor of certain enzymatic reactions.
Growing points of plants are damaged and die off in a deficiency of calcium.
Calcium sources: Calcium nitrate, calcium chloride.
Micronutrients: Following nutrients are required in small amounts:
7. Boron (B):
Boron functions in the plant are not well understood. Boron seems to be essential for healthy meristem development in young parts such as root tips. Also, it plays a role in flowering stage of a plant.
Boron-deficient plants show dead shoot tips, and new side shoots also die. Know about essential nutrients for plant growth.
Boron sources: Sodium borate, Boric acid.
8. Iron (Fe):
Iron is used in the biochemical reactions that form chlorophyll, and is a part of one of the enzymes that are responsible for the reduction of nitrate nitrogen to ammoniacal nitrogen.
In the deficiency of iron, new leaves turn yellow with greenish nerves.
Iron sources: Chelated iron (EDTA, DTPA)
9. Manganese (Mn):
Manganese functions in several enzymatic reactions that involve the energy compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Manganese also activates several enzymes and is involved in the processes in the electron transport system in photosynthesis.
The dead yellowish tissue is observed between leaf nerves in manganese deficiency.
Manganese sources: Manganese chloride, Manganese sulfate.
Copper is a component of many enzymes in plants and is a part of the protein in the electron transport system of photosynthesis.
Dead leaf tips and withered edges are observed in copper deficiency.
Copper sources: Cupric chloride, copper sulphate.
Zinc is involved in activation of several enzymes in the plant and is required for the synthesis of indoleacetic acid, a plant growth regulator.
Deficient plants show yellowish areas between nerves, starting at leaf tip and edges.
Zinc source: Zinc sulphate.
Molybdenum is a constituent of two enzymes involved in nitrogen metabolism. The most important of these is nitrate reductase.
Deficiency symptoms are brownish areas along leaf edges and inhibited flowering.
Molybdenum sources: Ammonium molybdate, Sodium molybdate.
Chlorine plays a possible role in photosynthesis and might function as a counterion in K fluxes involved in cell turgor.
Deficiency symptoms are wilting due to a restricted and highly branched root system, often with short tips, and leaf mottling and leaflet blade tip wilting.
Chlorine sources: Potassium chloride, Calcium chloride.
Note: All purpose organic fertilizers and rich manures are also steady sources of all the nutrients.
Read more about types of fertilizers and and how they help plants grow!