ROLES OF THE 16 ESSENTIAL NUTRIENTS IN
CROP DEVELOPMENT

                                                   primary nutrients | secondary nutrients | micronutrients


Sixteen plant food nutrients are essential for proper crop development. Each is equally important to the plant, yet each is required in vastly different amounts. These differences have led to the grouping of these essential elements into three categories; primary (macro) nutrients, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients.

PRIMARY (MACRO) NUTRIENTS

Primary (macro) nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They are the most frequently required in a crop fertilization program. Also, they are need in the greatest total quantity by plants as fertilizer.

NITROGEN

· Necessary for formation of amino acids, the building blocks of protein
· Essential for plant cell division, vital for plant growth
· Directly involved in photosynthesis
· Necessary component of vitamins
· Aids in production and use of carbohydrates
· Affects energy reactions in the plant
PHOSPHORUS · Involved in photosynthesis, respiration, energy storage and transfer, cell division, and enlargement
· Promotes early root formation and growth
· Improves quality of fruits, vegetables, and grains
· Vital to seed formation
· Helps plants survive harsh winter conditions
· Increases water-use efficiency
· Hastens maturity
POTASSIUM  
· Carbohydrate metabolism and the break down and translocation of starches
· Increases photosynthesis
· Increases water-use efficiency
· Essential to protein synthesis
· Important in fruit formation
· Activates enzymes and controls their reaction rates
· Improves quality of seeds and fruit
· Improves winter hardiness
· Increases disease resistance
SECONDARY NUTRIENTS
 

The secondary nutrients are calcium, magnesium, and sulphur. For most crops, these three are needed in lesser amounts that the primary nutrients. They are growing in importance in crop fertilization programs due to more stringent clean air standards and efforts to improve the environment.

CALCIUM

 
· Utilized for Continuous cell division and formation
· Involved in nitrogen metabolism
· Reduces plant respiration
· Aids translocation of photosynthesis from leaves to fruiting organs
· Increases fruit set
· Essential for nut development in peanuts
· Stimulates microbial activity
MAGNESIUM  
· Key element of chlorophyll production
· Improves utilization and mobility of phosphorus
· Activator and component of many plant enzymes
· Directly related to grass tetany
· Increases iron utilization in plants
· Influences earliness and uniformity of maturity
SULPHUR  
· Integral part of amino acids
· Helps develop enzymes and vitamins
· Promotes nodule formation on legumes
· Aids in seed production
· Necessary in chlorophyll formation (though it isnít one of the constituents)
MICRONUTRIENTS

The micronutrients are boron, chlorine, cooper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc. These plant food elements are used in very small amounts, but they are just as important to plant development and profitable crop production as the major nutrients. Especially, they work "behind the scene" as activators of many plant functions.

BORON

· Essential of germination of pollon grains and growth of pollen tubes
· Essential for seed and cell wall formation
· Promotes maturity
· Necessary for sugar translocation
· Affects nitrogen and carbohydrate
CHLORINE · Not much information about its functions
· Interferes with P uptake
· Enhances maturity of small grains on some soils
COPPER · Catalyzes several plant processes
· Major function in photosynthesis
· Major function in reproductive stages
· Indirect role in chlorophyll production
· Increases sugar content
· Intensifies color
· Improves flavor of fruits and vegetables
IRON · Promotes formation of chlorophyll
· Acts as an oxygen carrier
· Reactions involving cell division and growth
MAGANESE · Functions as a part of certain enzyme systems
· Aids in chlorophyll synthesis
· Increases the availability of P and CA
MOLYBDENUM · Required to form the enzyme "nitrate reductas" which reduces nitrates to ammonium in plant
· Aids in the formation of legume nodules
· Needed to convert inorganic phosphates to organic forms in the plant
ZINC · Aids plant growth hormones and enzyme system
· Necessary for chlorophyll production
· Necessary for carbohydrate formation
· Necessary for starch formation
· Aids in seed formation
In addition to the 13 nutrients listed above, plants require carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, which are extracted from air and water to make up the bulk of plant weight.


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