16 Nutrients Essential for Plant Growth - FeraxFarm

Several nutrients are essential for plant growth. The 16 nutrients essential for plant growth are hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus, oxygen, potassium, calcium, chlorine, magnesium, boron, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, nickel, and molybdenum.

Out of these six, nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and oxygen are primary nutrients known as macronutrients.

These nutrients are needed to grow healthy plants. Plants need these nutrients from the soil to develop fully and be healthy. 

Sulfur, calcium, and magnesium are secondary nutrients; their requirement is moderate compared to primary nutrients.

Copper, manganese, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, iron, and zinc are micro or trace elements needed in small quantities by plants compared to secondary nutrients.

Elements Essential for Plant Growth

Plants need nutrients for development and growth. These nutrients are necessary to grow healthy plants and achieve a good crop yield. The 16 nutrients essential for plant growth and development are as under:

Nutrients Essential for Plant GrowthHydrogen

Hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon are the three major components used by plants in large amounts and serve as building blocks for plant growth. 

A hydrogen atom is most contained in all organic compounds. Plants get hydrogen from water through photosynthesis.

Recent botanical effects of hydrogen show that it is involved in the transmission of plant hormones and can increase plant resistance to stress factors such as cold, drought, salinity, and heavy metals. In addition, hydrogen can delay postharvest ripening and fruit aging. [1]

Hydrogen is one of the 16 nutrients essential for plant growth. A deficiency of hydrogen causes chlorosis of the whole plant, and plants become light green, progress to old leaves yellowing, and then towards younger leaves.

If primary symptoms are not corrected, the plant becomes stunted and causes poor development of secondary shoots. [2]


Plants generate oxygen themselves. Oxygen is a macronutrient for plants required in large quantities. It is vital for plants because it is involved in respiration (called aerobic respiration) and is essential for photosynthesis.  

Roots and seeds do not photosynthesize however they also have oxygen needs. Oxygen is needed in plants to carry out several processes. 


Plants use carbohydrates for growth. Carbon in plants is used for the photosynthesis process. In this process, a chemical carbohydrate molecule is formed by converting the sun’s energy. 

Plants use some carbon for growth, and some amount is used for respiration, where sugar is broken down into energy for plants.

Because carbon is involved in the vital food-making process (photosynthesis) so it is among the 16 nutrients essential for plant growth.

Also Read: Homemade Phosphorus Fertilizer for Plants


Nitrogen is an essential macronutrient needed in large quantities for plants. The nutrient generally provides the highest response to plants during cultivation, supports the rapid growth of vegetation, and gives the plants a healthy green color.

Nitrogen is essential in several important structural, genetic, and metabolic compounds in plant cells.

In amino acids, nitrogen is also an important component. Amino acids are building blocks of protein. Without proteins, plants become wilt and die. Nitrogen in different forms can occur in different parts. It is found in plants’ leaves, tissues, grains, and roots. 

Nitrogen deficiency in plants can cause stunted growth and inhibit leaf growth, particularly young leaves. [3]


Phosphorus is an essential macronutrient for plants in the soil. It is part of plant cells, necessary for growing tip development and division of cells in plants. Because of this reason, it is vital for seedlings and young plants. 

Phosphorus stimulates root, seed, and fruit production and increases winter endurance. For DNA and RNA, phosphorus acts as a raw material. The nutrient is also involved in ATP and ADP, which are energy transfer Compounds. 

Without phosphorus, plant growth slows down, causing stunted, intolerant, dull greyish-green leaves and red pigment-based leaves and leaves die. [4]


Potassium is essential in transferring sugars from leaves to fruits and seeds, and carbohydrates, water, and nutrient movement in plant tissues. Help stimulates fruit, grain, and root production and increases disease resistance, increasing red fruit pigment.

Potassium is also a macronutrient and one of the 16 nutrients essential for plant growth and is usually called potash. This nutrient is essential for plant growth and food crops.

It is crucial for plants, promotes water usage, improves resistance to droughts, and increases the amount of fruit and vegetables.

The potassium deficiency in plants can cause chlorosis, curling of leaf tips, and brown scorching. [5] 


Calcium, a secondary nutrient for plants, is essential for plant development. All plants need it in moderate quantities to create cell walls and membranes; in soil, structure calcium plays an important role.

Calcium, an integral part of the structure of plant cell walls, maintains stability and regular transport and preservation of other plant elements. It is also believed to inhibit the activity of plants’ organic acids and alkaline salts.


Sulfur is a secondary nutrient required in small amounts but is essential for plants’ overall growth and development. It helps to synthesize necessary enzymes and supports the production of proteins in plants. 

Increase yields and improve product quality. Crop yield and quality are essential as it decides the market price of the product a farmer is growing. Sulfur plays a vital role in plants, activating enzymes that help in plant biochemical reactions. 

The deficiency of sulfur in plants causes pale green or yellow coloring all over the plant. There is chlorosis on younger leaves, and the tips die. The overall development and growth of plants slow down. [6]


Magnesium is a secondary element, and in producing chlorophyll, it is a raw material. It plays a role in nitrogen reactions and energy metabolism. In soybeans and flax, it increases oil production and helps regulate the absorption of other elements. 

Magnesium is the chlorophyll molecule’s central atom, and each contains 6.7% magnesium. Magnesium deficiency leads to chlorophyll shortage, results stunted and poor plant growth.  

An obvious symptom of magnesium deficiency is interveinal chlorosis due to the degradation of chlorophyll. [7]


Chlorine is a micronutrient required in small quantities for plant growth but is a necessary nutrient. Chlorine is essential for the photosynthesis process because it is involved in opening and closing the stomata.  

Stomata are holes in the leaves that allow plants to absorb and release oxygen, carbon dioxide, and other gases as needed. Chlorine also helps ensure firm leaves. 

Chlorine also helps water movement and stimulates root growth in plants. The deficiency of chlorine in plants causes Chlorosis and Necrosis.  


Copper is a micro or traces element that plants need in little/trace quantities. For normal growth range of copper in plants should be 0.05-0.5 ppm.

For plants, copper is among the 16 nutrients essential for plant growth. This micronutrient is essential for many enzyme activities and the production of chlorophyll, the production of seeds, and plays a role as a catalyst in respiration.

Copper in plants acts as an essential cofactor for several proteins. 

Copper deficiency can make plants susceptible to diseases like ergot. In cereal grains such as barley, oats, wheat, etc., copper deficiency is more likely to occur. [8]  


Boron is a trace element that regulates plant hormone levels and promotes proper growth. Boron improves flower production and preservation, elongation and germination of pollen, and fruit and seed development.

Boron is necessary for higher plants for their physiological functions. The deficiency of boron deficiency is regarded as a nutritional disorder that has a detrimental effect on plant growth and metabolism.

Boron participates in the structure and function of cell walls and membranes and ion fluxes through the membrane. [9]


Iron is also a trace element plants need this nutrient in small quantities for healthy development. However, it is required in small amounts but is vital. 

Iron is essential in processes like enzyme production, some pigments, chlorophyll synthesis, oxidizing sugars for energy, nitrogen fixation in legumes, and development and metabolism. Without iron, plants cannot function up to that level as they should.  

Iron deficiency causes iron chlorosis which is the yellowing of plant leaves. Chlorosis between veins (Interveinal) is the primary iron deficiency symptom. 

Growth chlorosis due to iron deficiency is a significant barrier in plant growth and causes drastic crop, yield and quality loss. [9]


Zinc is a micro, essential nutrient necessary for the development and growth of a plant. Although zinc is a micronutrient, however, it is vital for plants.

In plants, zinc is a free molecule, with several more minor molecular compounds as complex or other macromolecules and proteins as a component.  

In several enzymes, zinc, including growth regulators, stimulates growth formation in stems and buds. Also, zinc helps plants produce chlorophyll. Zinc deficiency in plants can cause necrosis, chlorosis, and dwarf leaves (small leaves usually show chlorosis). 

 Zinc deficiency causes a significant loss in crop yield, and in the case of acute insufficiency, the death of plants can occur. [10]      


Nickle has a significant role in plants; it helps seedling growth and development. It is a micronutrient for plants required in small quantities but is essential for optimal plant growth and development.

Nickle is part of an enzymatic called urease, which hydrolyzes urea in plant tissues. This micronutrient helps plant height and increases biomass and plant branches.

This nutrient is involved in several other activities in plants, such as photosynthesis, seed germination, nitrogen metabolism, and reproductive and vegetative growth.

A deficiency of nickel in a plant can cause leaf tip necrosis because of the urea accumulation to toxic levels. Low nickel deficiency can lead to reduced growth and yield. The shortage of this nutrient can cause a significant reduction in seed germination.


Molybdenum is essential for the fixation of nitrogen use of nitrogen in plants. It is indispensable for forming amino acids, stimulating plants’ growth, and strengthening like nitrogen.

Molybdenum is an essential component of two enzymes, which convert nitrates to nitrites (toxic nitrogen form) and then to ammonia before they are used to make amino acids in plants.

In legumes, molybdenum also needs symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.

Plants with insufficient molybdenum accumulate nitrate in leaves but cannot utilize it to form proteins for normal growth. Leaves will show symptoms of nitrogen deficiency, and plants will become stunted. [11]


Plants need several nutrients for growth and development. These nutrients are essential for a plant to germinate, develop, make good yields, and fight diseases and infections.

Some nutrients for plants are needed in large quantities, such as nitrogen, hydrogen, and phosphorus, and some are required in moderate amounts, like Sulphur, magnesium, and calcium.

We discuss the 16 nutrients essential for plant growth in this article; these are vital for a plant to remain in optimal health. These nutrients help plants germinate, grow, develop and produce a good yield.

Deficiency of these essential nutrients can cause several issues in a plant, like weak plants, less yield, and intolerant to diseases and infections.


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