Plant Mineral Nutrition


Several inorganic minerals are essential for plant growth and these are usually obtained by roots from the soil. Availability of minerals in the soil is determined by the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil. Plants can directly influence nutrient availability around the root surface; this zone is called the rhizosphere. Plants adjust root architecture and exudation according to their nutrient requirements and under deficiency these changes can be a marker for nutrient status. Nutrients are taken up from the soil using plasma‚Äźmembrane located transporter proteins and excess is stored in the cell vacuole or converted into polymerised storage forms. For crops it is essential to match nutrient supply to demand throughout the growth season to obtain the maximum yield. These nutrient storage forms can be used as agricultural indicators of crop nutrient status and the potential for fertilizer leaching losses. Membrane transporters provide a gateway for nutrient entry into plants, but the selectivity of these filters can breakdown when chemically similar minerals are present at very high concentrations. The minerals may not be essential for growth, but they can enter plant cells and cause toxicity.

Key Concepts:

  • Several mineral elements are essential for plant growth.

  • These nutrients are usually obtained from the soil and their availability depends on the physical and chemical properties of the soil.

  • Plants adjust their root growth according to their nutrient requirements and these changes can be a marker for nutrient status.

  • It is necessary to matching nutrient supply to demand throughout the growth season to obtain maximum crop yield.

  • Excess nutrients can be stored in the plant and these storage pools can be used as indicators of nutrient status.

  • Root plasma membrane located transporters are the gateway for entry of nutrients into the plant and their selectivity is important for determining the toxicity of some elements.

Keywords: plant; plant mineral nutrition; soil; rhizosphere; homoeostasis; nutrient status

Figure 1.

The pattern of barley root development showing localised increased growth where nitrate is available at higher concentrations. This pattern of development depends on the type of nutrient, but this localised proliferation can be observed by many different species in response to the major nutrients. Reproduced from Drew et al. () with permission of Oxford University Press. © Oxford University Press.

Figure 2.

Diagram representation showing the relationship between plant growth and tissue concentration. The blue graph line represents the relationship between plant growth and the nutrient concentration in tissue. Redrawn from Epstein and Bloom ().

Figure 3.

The influence of varying phosphorus supply on wheat leaves and yield (left) and visual leaf symptoms in strawberry (right). Wheat figure shows the effects of phosphorus supply on chlorophyll (upper) and grain yield (lower). Reproduced with permission from Kochian L (2002) Molecular physiology of mineral nutrient acquisition, transport, and utilization. In: Bob B, Wilhelm G and Russell J (eds.) Biochemistry & Molecular Biology of Plants. Oxford, Oxfordshire: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978‐0‐943088‐39‐6. © John Wiley & Sons.

Figure 4.

Some future strategies for improving crop nutrient acquisition.



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Miller, Anthony J(Jul 2014) Plant Mineral Nutrition. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0023717]