“Have you thanked a green plant today?” reads a popular bumper sticker.
Indeed, we should thank green plants for providing the food we eat, fiber for
the clothing we wear, wood for building our houses, and the oxygen we breathe.
Without plants, humans and other animals simply could not exist. Psychologists
tell us that plants also provide a sense of well-being and peace of mind,
which is why we preserve forested parks in our cities, surround our homes
with gardens, and install plants and flowers in our homes and workplaces.
A plant nutrient is a chemical element that is essential for plant growth and reproduction. Essential
element is a term often used to identify a plant nutrient. The term nutrient implies essentiality, so it
is redundant to call these elements essential nutrients. Commonly, for an element to be a nutrient,
it must fit certain criteria. The principal criterion is that the element must be required for a plant to
complete its life cycle. The second criterion is that no other element substitutes fully for the element
being considered as a nutrient.
Chapter 37 - Soil and plant nutrition. This chapter define soil texture and soil composition; explain why plants cannot extract all of the water in soil; define cation exchange and describe how plants can stimulate the process; discuss the problems of topsoil erosion and farm irrigation in arid regions; suggest actions that can help mitigate these problems;...
Plant response to reduced water availability and other abiotic stress (e.g. metals) have
been analysed through changes in water absorption and transport mechanisms and
also by molecular and genetic approach. A relatively new aspects of fruit nutrition are
presented in order to provide the basis for the improvement of some fruit quality
traits. The involvement of hormones, nutritional and proteomic plant profiles together
with some structure/function of sexual components have also been addressed.
Discovery of the essentiality of nitrogen is often credited to de Saussure (1–3), who in 1804 recognized that nitrogen was a vital constituent of plants, and that nitrogen was obtained mainly from the soil.
Incidental phosphorus fertilization in the form of manures, plant and animal biomass, and other
natural materials, such as bones, probably has been practiced since agriculture began. Although
specific nutritional benefits were unknown
Chlorine is classified as a micronutrient, but it is often taken up by plants at levels comparable to a
macronutrient. Supplies of chlorine in nature are often plentiful, and obvious symptoms of
deficiency are seldom observed.
Soils contain an average of 7% total aluminum (Al), and under acidic conditions, aluminum is solubilized
(1), increasing availability to plants and aquatic animals. Soil acidification due to application
of fertilizers, growing of legumes.
Sulfur (S) is unique in having changed within just a few years, from being viewed as an undesired
pollutant to being seen as a major nutrient limiting plant production in Western Europe. In East
Asia, where, under current legislative restrictions
The determination of manganese (Mn) essentiality in plant growth by McHargue (1914–1922)
focused the attention of plant nutritionists on this nutrient, and led the way for further groundbreaking
Discovery of zinc as an essential element for higher plants was made by Sommer and Lipman (1)
while working with barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.). However,
Chandler et al. (2) stated that Raulin, as early as 1869.
The rare earth element calcium is one of the most abundant elements in the lithosphere; it is readily
available in most soils; and it is a macronutrient for plants, yet it is actively excluded from plant
Boron (B) is one of the eight essential micronutrients, also called trace elements, required for the normal growth of most plants. It is the only nonmetal among the plant micronutrients. Boron was first recognized as an essential element for plants early in the twentieth century
Nickel (Ni), the most recently discovered essential element (1), is unique among plant nutrients in
that its metabolic function was determined well before it was determined that its deficiency could
disrupt plant growth.
Cobalt has long been known to be a micronutrient for animals, including human beings, where it is
a constituent of vitamin B12 (1). However, its presence and function has not been recorded to the
same extent in higher plants as in animals.
Conclusion.Chapters in this handbook summarize research for each of the plant nutrients and several beneficial elements, and readers should refer to the individual chapters for information on past, current, and future research on these elements.
Early interest in selenium by nutritionists concerned its high concentration in
certain range plants and the consequent toxicosis in animals that grazed those plants.
More recently, the essential nature of selenium has become the center of attention, and
this element is now known to be required by laboratory animals, food animals (including
fish), and humans. Its role as an integral feature of glutathione peroxidase has been
established, and other possible functions are under active investigation.
MINERAL NUTRIENTS ARE ELEMENTS acquired primarily in the form of inorganic ions from the soil. Although mineral nutrients continually cycle through all organisms, they enter the biosphere predominantly through the root systems of plants, so in a sense plants act as the “miners” of Earth’s crust (Epstein 1999). The large surface area of roots and their ability to absorb inorganic ions at low concentrations from the soil solution make mineral absorption by plants a very effective process.
A ‘textbook’ plant typically comprises about 85% water and 13.5% carbohy-
drates. The remaining fraction contains at least 14 mineral elements, without
which plants would be unable to complete their life cycles. These essential
mineral elements include six macronutrients – N, K, P, S, Mg and Ca – which
are present in relatively large amounts in plant tissues (mg g−1
of dry tissue),
and several micronutrients, including Fe and Zn, which are present in smaller
amounts (µg g−1
of dry tissue).
Plants are sessile organisms and as such must have mechanisms to deal with both abiotic
and biotic stresses to ensure survival. The term “abiotic stress” includes many stresses
caused by environmental conditions such as drought, salinity, UV and extreme
temperatures. Due to global climate change it is predicted that abiotic stresses will increase
in the near future and have substantial impacts on crop yields (Intergovernmental Panel of
Climate Change; http://www.ipcc.ch).