Environment

Understanding Plant Nutrition

on .

 

Have you ever wondered what those numbers on the fertilizer package means and what other elements are needed for healthy plant growth?

If the package lists the fertilizer as 5-10-5 (N-P-K), the first number is Nitrogen, the second is phosphorous and the third is potassium. These are known as the primary nutrients.

Nineteen elements are considered essential for plant growth. Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are primarily supplied by air and water. Plant roots absorb the remaining 16 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

DeficiencySymptoms

*Solutions

Nitrogen

Vigorous growth & dark green color

Light green leaves; stunted growth

Dried Blood, Garden
Manure, Cottonseed Meal, Urea

Phosporus

Root development &
flowering

Smaller yields of seeds &
fruit; purplish leaves, stems & branches;

Rock Phosphate, Bone
Meal, Single Super
Phosphate, Triple Super
Phosphate

Potassium

Overall hardiness &
disease resistance

Reduced yields; Spotted or curled leaves; Weak root system

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

Sulfur

Dark green color;
Seed production

Yellow leaves; Stunted,
spindly plants

Garden Sulfur, Gypsum

Trace
Nutrients

Function

Deficiency Symptoms

 

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

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)

Nickel

Enzyme Producton

Yellow Leaves

Greensand

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

Did you get to our spring gardening seminar here in May? We had a great turnout and the weather was perfect. Usually it occurs after Easter, but due to the late holiday this year, we were surrounded by the bright colors and intoxoicating smells of the Easter plants. If you did  miss it,  try to make it next year. It really helps to get you in the gardening mood.