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02 Aug

How Are Plant Nutrients Important To Plant Growth?


Understanding plant nutrition is the most difficult part of growing hydroponic crops. Just like health gurus say "You are what you eat", the same concept applies to a well-nourished plant. The type of nutrients you use to sustain your crop as well their quantity, quality and frequency in which they are applied will all factor into the outcome of your yield.

Plant nutrients are available to the botanical world in mineral form and as ions or gases. In total, there are 20 nutrients vital to vegetative life on earth with each required in amounts specific to individual species. It is for this reason that proper knowledge of plant nutrition and thorough research of your crop's needs are indispensable. One plant may demand a certain nutrient in abundance while the same recipe could prove fatal in different circumstances.  

Nutrients are broken down into two subcategories, macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients are generally found in greater concentrations since they are also absorbed in bulk. Their quantity within plant tissues are measured in percentages in relation to their dry weight. Micronutrients on the other hand are consumed in trace amounts and are calculated in parts per million.  

Carbon, hydrogen and oxygen comprise the macronutrients found in air and water and those necessary to photosynthesis and cellular respiration.  From minerals, the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, sulphur, magnesium and silicon are derived as well as the micronutrients boron, chlorine, manganese, iron, zinc, copper, molybdenum, nickel, selenium and sodium.  

In their essence, nitrogen promotes vegetative growth while phosphorus will spur flower and seed production. Potassium opens and closes the small openings on leaves called stomata, allowing for the intake and release of air and water.  

Calcium is compulsory to plant structure, magnesium forms part of chlorophyll and silicon strengthens a plant's cell walls to provide drought and frost resistance. Sulphur makes up the building blocks for various amino acids and vitamins and contributes to chloroplast development. Micronutrients in small amounts are instrumental to plant metabolism and the various processes of photosynthesis.  

These nutrients are taken up by the microscopic hairs found on a root and, once imbibed, are moved to the root's central tissue. Here they will enter into the flow of the plant's vascular system, particularly the veined passaged ways of the the xylem. In the xylem, the nutrients and minerals will be transported along with water from the roots to the upper parts of the plant.  

The xylem will disperse the nutrients throughout the plant depending on how mobile the nutrient is and what parts of the plants are still in development. Younger leaves and shoots will always be favoured over older ones to receive nutrients and this is responsible for the general yellowing of older leaves. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are three of the most mobile nutrients as well as the easiest to distribute evenly within a plant.  

For a plant to develop past germination, it will need water, light and nutrients. Never underestimate the value of good nutrition that is appropriate to your crop as it will prove to be an asset to your yield.

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