Whether you are growing plants hydroponically or in soil, they still need nutrients in order to grow. Nutrient deficiencies can be common, when growing plants in soil most of the nutrients are already present and those which are still needed can be added to the soil by applying fertilizer. If you are growing hydroponically however the necessary nutrients must be added to the water. A benefit of growing hydroponically is that you are in control of what nutrients get added to the growing solution and you can better deal with hydroponic nutrient defencies.
All plants require a mixture of major and minor nutrients in order to grow properly and the amounts of each nutrient needed for proper growth can vary between different plants. The three main major nutrients are N-P-K or Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium, with calcium, magnesium, and sulfur often also considered to be major nutrients.
In addition to the major nutrients there are minor nutrients such as copper, iron, zinc, manganese, molybdenum, chlorine, boron, silicon, cobalt, aluminum, selenium, and sodium. Beyond the minor nutrients are the trace minerals that may appear in minute quantities and often have little known effect on plants but may be somewhat exotic like gold, silver, or iridium for example.
Focusing today on the major nutrients or N-P-K in particular we find that the leaves of the plants can give us clues as to what they are deficient in. Nitrogen for example is necessary for vegetative growth and other plant processes. a nitrogen deficiency will often have a lightening or yellowing of the leaves between the veins and can develop browning tips and edges of leaves.
Phosphorus is particularly important for root growth and transfer of energy in photosynthesis and seed production. A deficiency of phosphorus can involve stunted growth and leaves will often develop dark necrotic patches.
Potassium is required by the plants for overall cell strength and proper water usage among other things. Deficiency symptoms often involve tips of leaves yellowing with patches or spots of necrosis.
Magnesium, calcium, and sulfur are also important major nutrients. Magnesium is needed in chlorophyll formation and can be a common nutrient deficiency. Calcium is needed for cell growth and proper cell membrane function. Sulfur is an important building block and is needed for plants cells and seeds. These nutrients are the most vital to growth of plants but minor elements are often ultimately just as essential to the proper overall growth of plants as well.
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