Understanding Plant Nutrition

Ben HenryMay 17, '20
Understanding Plant Nutrition

Eighteen elements are considered essential for plant growth. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are primarily supplied by air and water. Plant roots absorb the remaining 15 elements from the surrounding soil. These elements are divided into three groups based on their relative abundance in plants: Primary Nutrients (or Major Nutrients, Secondary Nutrients (or Minor Nutrients, and Trace Nutrients (or Micronutrients. Although the Major Nutrients are needed in the greatest quantities, a deficiency of any one nutrient can prevent plant growth, or reduce it to unsatisfactory levels. Even though some soils may already contain these nutrients, they may not be in a form available for plant growth. The best way to ensure that all of the nutrients are available in the soil is through regular applications of plant foods. The table below provides more information on each nutrient, its deficiency symptoms, and possible plant foods to cure the deficiency.

Primary Nutrients

  Function Deficiency Symptoms *Solutions
Nitrogen Vigorous growth & dark green color Light green leaves; stunted growth Dried Blood, Garden Manure, Cottonseed Meal, Ammonium Sulfate, Urea
Phosphorus Root development & flowering Smaller yields of seeds & fruit; purplish leaves, stems & branches; Rock Phosphate, Bone Meal, Single Superphosphate, Triple Superphosphate
Potassium Overall hardiness & disease resistance Reduced yields; Spotted or curled leaves; Weak root system Sulfate of Potash, Sulfate of Potash Magnesia, Muriate of Potash, Greensand

Secondary Nutrients

  Function Deficiency Symptoms *Solutions
Calcium Plant vigor; Aids in uptake of nutrients Deformed terminal leaves; Poor root growth Garden Lime, Garden Gypsum
Magnesium Essential part of chlorophyll Yellowing of older leaves Garden Lime, Sulfate of Potash Magnesia
Sulfur Dark green color; Seed production Yellow leaves; Stunted, spindly plants Garden Sulfur, Sulfate of Potash, Gypsum

Trace Nutrients

  Function Deficiency Symptoms *Solutions
Boron Increases flowering & fruit development Terminal buds die; Less flowers & fruit develop Garden Manure, Bone Meal
Chlorine Helps control water loss & moisture stress Plants wilt; yellow leaves Muriate of Potash, Garden Manure, Greensand
Cobalt Improves growth & transpiration Reduced growth and yellowing of foliage Greensand, Kelp, Cottonseed Meal
Copper Helps produce chlorophyll Yellow, wilted leaves; Lack of flowering Garden Manure, Greensand
Iron Promotes dark green leaves Yellow leaves Greensand, Garden Manure, Cottonseed Meal
Manganese Helps produce chlorophyll Intervenous chlorosis in younger leaves Garden Manure, Greensand
Molybdenum Essential in some enzyme systems Pale green, rolled or cupped leaves Greensand, Lime (makes it more available)
Sodium Aids water regulation & photosynthesis Plants wilt Kelp, Garden Manure, Bone Meal, Greensand
Zinc Enzyme & growth hormone production Yellow leaves, Rosetted (clustered) leaves Garden Manure, Greensand, Cottonseed Meal

* Espoma Tones contain ALL 15 essential nutrients so they can cure all of the above nutrient deficiencies

The above information is provided courtesy of the Espoma Company, www.espoma.com.

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