Nutrient Management Basics: The Building Blocks of the Successful Grower
To be the best possible grower you can be, you need to have a good understanding of the essential nutrients for plant growth. Nutrient management means getting the most “bang for your buck” while not wasting money and time by over fertilizing or fertilizing with the wrong fertilizer at the wrong stage of plant growth. Most of you know about N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) but did you know that there are 14 other nutrients that are defined as being essential to plant growth?
Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are considered macro nutrients, or nutrients that the plant needs in large quantities. There are three secondary macro nutrients and eleven other nutrients called micro nutrients. Plants need these too for optimal growth, only in smaller quantities. Today we will be looking at some of the basics in nutrient management in order to make you an even better grower.
Nitrogen is an essential part of the photosynthesis process. Nitrogen is directly associated with “top” growth or vegetative growth. Use a fertilizer higher in nitrogen for leafy crops such as lettuce. Nitrogen deficiency symptoms include stunted growth, delayed maturity, and chlorosis (yellowing and death of lower leaves).
Phosphorus is also essential for photosynthesis as well as respiration. It is required in lesser amounts than nitrogen or potassium. It helps create a prolific root system for the plant and is a key part of fruit and seed production. Phosphorus deficiencies are exhibited as purplish leaves, stems and branches, stunted growth and decrease yields. Use a higher level of “P” for increased root and fruit growth.
The last of the “macro” nutrients is potassium. This valuable nutrient is essential in the plant’s water retention and is key to starch and protein formation. Plants that are experiencing low “K” levels will likely have reduced yields, spindly stalks, curled older leaves, and a weak root system. Nitrogen is associated with green growth, whereas phosphorus and potassium are more for root growth and fruiting stages.
Ca, Mg, S
Calcium, Magnesium and Sulfur are consumed by plants in the next highest amounts. Calcium is for cell walls and nitrogen uptake. Magnesium is for chlorophyll and vitamin formation. Sulfur is for amino acid production and flavor in onions and other vegetables. Lack of these minerals will result in yellowing of older leaves, deformed leaves and stunted growth. We offer a nutrient supplement that includes all of these.
B, Cu, Cl, Fe, Mn, Mo, N, and Zn
Boron, copper, chlorine, iron, manganese molybdenum, nickel and zinc are all considered micro nutrients. These are needed in minute quantities but are not any less important to the plant’s overall health. Symptoms of micro-nutrient deficiencies are often quite similar to macro-nutrient deficiencies and can also be cumulative. While micro nutrients are indeed essential in small quantities, all are toxic to plants in large quantities. Micro nutrient packages like our Hesi PowerZyme come as complete packages of micro nutrients.
Now that you have an idea about which nutrients are essential to plant growth and the relative quantities needed, you should send in a soil test (or a leachate water test if you are growing hydroponically) to your local Extension agent. This will help you see what elements you need the most of and base your fertilizing program off of those tests. Our test kit can help you to determine your macro nutrients, but a more thorough analysis can help you measure micro and secondary nutrients.
The building blocks of a healthy plant are the nutrients that they use to grow. If you want to be the best grower you can be, take further steps to fully understand your fertilization program. We could literally blog for a whole year just on this topic. We are just scratching the surface with this post. If you would like some more specific information, don’t hesitate to reply and we will do our very best to answer any question you may have. Now get growing!
Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/35168673@N03/6086229920/; www.flickr.com/photos/ifdcphotography/5269214079/