Nutrients are the key drivers for healthy plant development and ideal for growth. Different physiological functions such as flowering, photosynthesis and root growth all depends on the nutrient availability in the soil. In addition to carbon dioxide, water and oxygen, plant require at least 14 more mineral elements for sufficient nutrition. These are nitrogen, potassium, calcium, magnesium, Sulphur, phosphorus, which are required in large quantity while zinc, iron, copper, manganese, chlorine, boron are required in small quantity. When plants have insufficient supply of these nutrients they display variety of symptoms varying from stunted growth, inter-veinal chlorosis, necrosis to premature seed set and yellowing or browning of leaves.
Plants experience deficiencies in situation where the growing environmental conditions are poor and reducing the ability to take up present nutrient in the soil. For example, very alkaline and acidic condition inhibits availability of copper, manganese and zinc, waterlogging affects soils capacity to transfer or access the nutrients. Dryness of the soil also can limit the uptake of calcium and boron.
Interaction between nutrients also influences their uptake. Too much of one nutrient can restrict the plant ability to take in another. For instance when plant display nitrogen deficiency symptoms, it may be related to over application of potassium, calcium or Sulphur. Similar, high potassium or calcium frequently lead to magnesium deficiency in plants. Another concept, is when a certain nutrient is much concentrated in soil, a plant may turn on its natural toxicity prevention mechanisms, which lead to, reduced nutrient uptake.
Biotic and abiotic stresses are considered a huge cause of nutrient deficiencies, some practices contributing to the condition, like harvesting during wet condition is most likely to cause deficiency of potassium. The chemical fertilizer used to control diseases, pests and weed forms properties that inhibit plants from accessing certain nutrients.
In addition, some weed are very competitive, taking the key nutrients from the plant root zones, preventing the plants and beneficial microbes from accessing them.
Plant require sufficient but not too much supply of nutrients for optimal growth. In most soils, these mineral elements are rarely sufficient hence, they are supplied as fertilizers. However, they both cost as financially and environmentally.it is therefore important to optimize the efficiency with which fertilizers are used in plant production. The latter can be addressed through modern biotechnology approaches, which is considered sustainable as it use natural occurring element like organic matters and microbes. This will maintain our production without compromising economical profitability or the environment.
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