Sixteen chemical elements are known to be important to a plant’s growth and survival. The sixteen chemical elements are divided into two main groups: non-mineral and mineral.
In a process calledphotosynthesis, plants use energy from the sun to change carbon dioxide (CO2 – carbon and oxygen) and water (H2O- hydrogen and oxygen) into starches and sugars. These starches and sugars are the plant’s food.
|Since plants get carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from the air and water, there is little farmers and gardeners can do to control how much of these nutrients a plant can use.
|The 13 mineral nutrients, which come from the soil, are dissolved in water and absorbed through a plant’s roots. There are not always enough of these nutrients in the soil for a plant to grow healthy. This is why many farmers and gardeners use fertilizers to add the nutrients to the soil.The mineral nutrients are divided into two groups:
macronutrients and micronutrients.Macronutrients
Macronutrients can be broken into two more groups:
primary and secondary nutrients.The primary nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). These major nutrients usually are lacking from the soil first because plants use large amounts for their growth and survival.
The secondary nutrients are calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S). There are usually enough of these nutrients in the soil so fertilization is not always needed. Also, large amounts of Calcium and Magnesium are added when lime is applied to acidic soils. Sulfur is usually found in sufficient amounts from the slow decomposition of soil organic matter, an important reason for not throwing out grass clippings and leaves.
Micronutrients are those elements essential for plant growth which are needed in only very small (micro) quantities . These elements are sometimes called minor elements or trace elements, but use of the term micronutrient is encouraged by the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America. The micronutrients are boron (B), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), chloride (Cl), manganese (Mn), molybdenum (Mo) and zinc (Zn). Recycling organic matter such as grass clippings and tree leaves is an excellent way of providing micronutrients (as well as macronutrients) to growing plants.
“Plant Nutrients.” The North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Accessed June 11, 2013. http://www.ncagr.gov/cyber/kidswrld/plant/nutrient.htm