Plant Nutrients - Knowledgebase Question

Bradford, PA
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Question by krvst5
February 5, 1998
Could you please explain to me briefly how each of the major ingredients in your plant food (nitrogen, phosphate, potash, magnesium, ect.) work to help the plant grow?

Answer from NGA
February 5, 1998
There have been books written on this subject...but I can give you a brief outline.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K) are the "big three" of fertilizers.

Nitrogen is a component of chlorophyll, the green pigment needed forphotosynthesis. It is also found in amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. A deficiency of nitrogen causes leaves to yellow and stunts growth. Applying nitrogen to a lawn will help it "green up" quickly. However, too much nitrogen on flowering plants can encourage foliage growth at the expense of flowers.

Phosphorus is important in cell development as well as in the management of energy for metabolic processes. It is also part of the genetic material. A plant deficient in phosphorus will show stunting in all plant parts, especially roots. A common symptom of phosphorus deficiency is a purplish streaks on leaves, or a grey-green leaf color. Phosphorus may be present naturally in the soil, but it is often bound up in compounds that make it unavailable as a plant nutrient.

Potassium plays a role in the formation of plant proteins, carbohydrates, and chlorophyll. It is also involved in nutrient uptake and in the functioning of the stomates. Potassium deficiency symptoms includeyellow or brown leaf edges and weak stems.

Magnesium is an important part of the chlorophyll molecule; deficiency symptoms include yellowing foliage, especially between leaf veins, and stunted growth.

I hope this is helpful.

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