Nutrient Acquisition, Assimilation and Utilization


Plant growth is dependent upon the acquisition, assimilation and utilization of nutrients. Plants show many adaptations that allow for the absorption of nutrients. These adaptations allow different types of plant to survive in diverse habitats.

Keywords: nutrients; soil; nutrient uptake; assimilation; plant growth

Figure 1.

Ectomycorrhizas of the West African tropical legume tree Microberlinia bisculata growing over decomposing leaflets at the soil surface. Note the extensive fungal strands extending from the mycorrhiza and colonizing the substrate. Courtesy of Professor I. Alexander, University of Aberdeen, UK.

Figure 2.

Ectomycorrhiza of Tetraberlinia moreliana, prepared to show the fungal sheath (S) and the Hartig net region (HN). Note the non‐mycorrhizal rootlets (NM). Courtesy of Professor I. Alexander, University of Aberdeen, UK.

Figure 3.

Comparison of tolerance to arsenate of two Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus) lines grown in 10 μmol L−1 arsenate. The ‘normal’ population has severely stunted root growth, whereas the tolerant line has normal root growth. Courtesy of Professor A. Meharg, University of Aberdeen, UK.

Figure 4.

Dionea muscipula. Note the attractive red inner lobes with the triangle of trigger hairs on each surface. Some of the traps are shut. Courtesy of N. Little, University of Aberdeen, UK.

Figure 5.

Cuscuta chinensis parasitizing Oryza species (host). The C. chinensis shoot has wound tightly around the host stem. Courtesy of K. Tennakoon, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

Figure 6.

Santalum album haustoria (white) parasitizing an Acacia root (host). These are sites of nutrient transfer from the host to the parasite.


Further Reading

Caldwell MM and Pearcy RW (eds) (1994) Exploitation of Environmental Heterogeneity by Plants. London: Academic Press.

Crawley MJ (1997) Plant Ecology, 2nd edn. Oxford: Blackwell Science.

Jackson RB, Canadell J, Ehleringer JR et al. (1996) A global analysis of root distributions for terrestrial biomes. Oecologia 108: 389–411.

Killham K (1994) Soil Ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marschner H (1995) Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants, 2nd edn. London: Academic Press.

Parker C and Riches CR (1993) Parasitic Weeds of the World: Biology and Control. Wallingford: CAB International.

Wasiel Y, Eshel A and Kafkafi U (eds) (1996) Plant Roots: The Hidden Half, 2nd edn. New York: Martin Dekker.

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McDonald, A James S, and Standing, Dominic B(Jul 2003) Nutrient Acquisition, Assimilation and Utilization. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0003202]