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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe how plants obtain nutrients
  • List the elements and compounds required for proper plant nutrition
  • Describe an essential nutrient

Plants are unique organisms that can absorb nutrients and water through their root system, as well as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Soil quality and climate are the major determinants of plant distribution and growth. The combination of soil nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide, along with sunlight, allows plants to grow.

The chemical composition of plants

Since plants require nutrients in the form of elements such as carbon and potassium, it is important to understand the chemical composition of plants. The majority of volume in a plant cell is water; it typically comprises 80 to 90 percent of the plant’s total weight. Soil is the water source for land plants, and can be an abundant source of water, even if it appears dry. Plant roots absorb water from the soil through root hairs and transport it up to the leaves through the xylem. As water vapor is lost from the leaves, the process of transpiration and the polarity of water molecules (which enables them to form hydrogen bonds) draws more water from the roots up through the plant to the leaves ( [link] ). Plants need water to support cell structure, for metabolic functions, to carry nutrients, and for photosynthesis.

 Illustration shows a root tip. The tip of the root is bare, and hairs grow further up. A cross section at the top of the root reveals xylem tissue interspersed by four ovals containing phloem at the periphery.
Water is absorbed through the root hairs and moves up the xylem to the leaves.

Plant cells need essential substances, collectively called nutrients, to sustain life. Plant nutrients may be composed of either organic or inorganic compounds. An organic compound    is a chemical compound that contains carbon, such as carbon dioxide obtained from the atmosphere. Carbon that was obtained from atmospheric CO2 composes the majority of the dry mass within most plants. An inorganic compound    does not contain carbon and is not part of, or produced by, a living organism. Inorganic substances, which form the majority of the soil solution, are commonly called minerals: those required by plants include nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) for structure and regulation.

Essential nutrients

Plants require only light, water and about 20 elements to support all their biochemical needs: these 20 elements are called essential nutrients ( [link] ). For an element to be regarded as essential , three criteria are required: 1) a plant cannot complete its life cycle without the element; 2) no other element can perform the function of the element; and 3) the element is directly involved in plant nutrition.

Essential Elements for Plant Growth
Macronutrients Micronutrients
Carbon (C) Iron (Fe)
Hydrogen (H) Manganese (Mn)
Oxygen (O) Boron (B)
Nitrogen (N) Molybdenum (Mo)
Phosphorus (P) Copper (Cu)
Potassium (K) Zinc (Zn)
Calcium (Ca) Chlorine (Cl)
Magnesium (Mg) Nickel (Ni)
Sulfur (S) Cobalt (Co)
Sodium (S)
Silicon (Si)

Macronutrients and micronutrients

The essential elements can be divided into two groups: macronutrients and micronutrients. Nutrients that plants require in larger amounts are called macronutrients . About half of the essential elements are considered macronutrients: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulfur. The first of these macronutrients, carbon (C), is required to form carbohydrates, proteins, nucleic acids, and many other compounds; it is therefore present in all macromolecules. On average, the dry weight (excluding water) of a cell is 50 percent carbon. As shown in [link] , carbon is a key part of plant biomolecules.

Questions & Answers

what is cell?
V.S.Nikhil Reply
The smallest structure and functional unit
vinod
Hydra reproduce through which process
Saint Reply
which is smallest organ in our body
Techi
pineal gland
Himangshu
Yh in the ears...
Mozua
why you hand plam is sweating in everytime
Techi
who is the father of mycology
Sagar Reply
Heinrich Anton de Bary
Delissa
describe the similarities and differences between cytokinesis mechanism found in animal cells versus in plant cells
hiro Reply
what is life?
Techi
life is the existantce of indvidual human or animal.
R0se
thanks
Techi
are humans beings considered to have the eukaryotic cells
success Reply
yes.....
Delissa
eukaryotes are organisms that possess cells with a nucleus enclosed in a membrane, humans, and all complex organisms are eukaryotes.
Delissa
so humans and animals also have cell membranes.... cause I did this test prep and they said plants...I just want to be sure
success
and thank you for your reply it was helpful👍✌
success
eu= "perfect", "good", karyon= nut, amound, nucleus
Tiago
you're welcome. Plants are also eukaryotes.
Delissa
plants, like animals, possess a nucleus bound by a membrane.
Delissa
similarities and differences between cytokinesis mechanism found in animal cell vs cell division
Raymark Reply
what is the name of a male flower?
Ikeomu Reply
staminate means flower containing only stamen
Falak
what is the definition of evolution in a population?
Homero Reply
the slow changing of a species to adapt to any changes in the environment or how it feeds/hunts. im not good at explaining things lol.
Eclipse
the organ which is sensitive to light in euglena
Fatimah Reply
the organ which is sensitive to light in euglena is
Fatimah
all chlorophyll containing motile cells are sensitive to light
Himangshu
there is no more other chapter
Sandeep Reply
Give tow examples for nutritional deficiency Diseases-
Singampalli Reply
How does a plant cell look like
Sang Reply
in a sleepers form
David
what do you mean ? I could not understand
Gul
they have a regular shape and a large vacoule
Fatimah
I thought it looked like rectangle
Abrahán
a stage in mitosis wherein in spindle fibers begin to shorten to pu the sister chromatids away from each other towards the opposite ends of the cell
Earl Reply
a stage in interphase where chromosome s are duplicated
Earl
What is biodiversity
Sp Reply
Hmm
Hele
Name two secretions of Golgi apparatus
Daniel Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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