Like humans, plants require certain key nutrients to grow well, develop, reproduce and remain healthy. The performance of a crop in the field depends on the genetic makeup of the variety grown, fertility and pesticides programs, and interaction with the environment. 

The elements required by plants and obtained from soil and/or fertilizers encompass major nutrients (aka macronutrients), secondary nutrients, and micronutrients (aka trace elements). The qualification of major and minor nutrients comes from the relative abundance and requirement for various functions in plants.

Plants also need or accumulate Sodium (Na), Silicon (Si), Cobalt (Co), Nickel (Ni), Iodine (I) and Selenium (Se). These are not always necessary for their survival but important for humans and animals that depend on plants for their diet.

 

THE ROLE OF THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS

PRIMARY (MACRO) NUTRIENTS

Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) are the most frequently required in a crop fertilization program.

 

SECONDARY NUTRIENTS

Calcium (Ca), Magnesium (Mg), and Sulfur (S) are required in lesser amounts than macronutrients, but each is equally important to the crop. 

 

MICRONUTRIENTS

Boron (B), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), Manganese (Mn), Iron (Fe), Chloride(CI) and Molybdenum (Mo) are used in minute amounts but are just as important to plant growth and development as the major nutrients. Some micronutrients control the uptake of major nutrients and key processes.

 

These are just a few of the ways that essential elements contribute to crop health. For the next several weeks, we will be dissecting these elements one at time, addressing how they can be managed properly and used in balance with other nutrients to promote growth and development and preserve yield and quality.

In our next post, we will take an in-depth look at the vital role nitrogen plays in plant health.