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Mineral Nutrition

Organisms require many organic and inorganic substances to complete their-life cycle. All such substances which they take from outside constitute their nutrition. On the basis of their nutritional requirements, organisms can be classified into heterotrophs and autotrophs.

All non-green plants and animals, including human beings, are heterotrophs. Autotrophic green plants obtain their nutrition from inorganic substances which are present in soil in the form of minerals, which are known as mineral elements or mineral nutrients and this nutrition is called mineral nutrition. 

About 50-60 elements are present in plant body but only 16-17 elements are considered as essential elements.

According to Arnon-Criteria of essentiality of minerals:

(i) The element must be necessary for normal growth and reproduction of all plants.

(ii) The requirement of the element must be specific for plant life. That is element indispensable to plant.

(iii) The elements must be directly involved in metabolism of plant.

C, H,O, N, K, S, Ca, Fe, Mg, P, Cu, Mn, B, CI, Zn, Mo, Ni

Arnon divided these necessary elements into two group on the basis of requirement of plant

(i) Major element/Macro nutrients: Concentration must be -1-10 mg L-1 /10m mole kg-1 of dry matter.(m mole-milimolar)

C, H, O, N, K, S, Ca, Fe, Mg , P

(ii)Minot elementlMicro nutrients: Concentration is less than 1.0-0.1 mg L-1/10m mole kg-1 of dry matter.

Cu, Zn, Mn, B, CI, Mo, Ni


1. Constituent of protoplasm: C, H, O, N, P, S are protoplasmic elements,

2. Maintain the osmotic pressure of cell.

3. In Redox process - (In ETS) – Fe, Mn, Cu, Cl.

4. Antagonestic role (Balancing function): Ca K neutralize the toxicity of harmful substance.

5. Control of permeability of cell membrane - Ca+, K+.

6. As cofactors or activators - Mg, Fe, Ca, Zn, Cu, K, Mn, Mo.

Beneficial nutrients: Mineral elements other than essential elements which satisfies specific additional nutrient requirement of some specific plants, is called beneficial nutrients.

Ex. Na - Halophytes (eg. Atriplex - Helps in C4 pathway)

Si - Grasses (Provides mechanical strength) Se - Astragalus

CO - Leguminous plants (Root nodule formation)

Toxic elements / Toxicity: Any mineral ion concentration in plant tissue that reduce the dry weight of tissue by about 10 percent in considered as toxic or toxic element and this effect is called as toxicity.

Most of micro nutrients become toxic as their required amount for plants is very low. This excess concentration inhibits activity of other essential elements.

Ex: Excess Mn (Manganese) may induce deficiency "of iron, magnesium and calcium cause appearance of brown spots surrounded by chlorotic veins Mn compete with iron (Fe) and magnesium (Mg) for uptake and with Mg for binding to enzymes. Mn also inhibits, calcium translocation into the shoot apex and cause disease called Crickle leaf.

So the dominant symptoms of Mn toxicity may actually be the symptoms of Fe, Mg and Ca deficiency.

Deficiency symptoms and mobility of minerals: The deficiency symptoms of highly mobile elements in plants like N, P, K, Mg first appear in older plant parts. These minerals are present as structural constituent of biomolecules of mature plant parts and when plant parts become older these biomolecules are broken down making these elements available for younger plant parts.

The deficiency symptoms of immobile elements like Ca, S are first appear in young plant parts, as they are not transparted from older plant parts. 

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