There are 12 main elements required for successful growth and propagation of a plant. Here is a brief description of the elements and their main purposes. A good hydroponic nutrient solution will have all of these combined in the correct proportions to promote plant growth
Nitrogen is one of the main elements contributing to the growth of a plant. Plants convert nitrogen to produce amino acids and proteins which are used to produce new cell growth. Any deficiency of nitrogen will result in the new growth being weak and spindly. Shortage of nitrogen is usually visible when a plant loses it’s green colour and becomes yellow, this is because nitrogen is required for producing the green pigment chlorophyll in the leaves.
Phosphorus is another important element for plant growth and is vital for photosynthesis and cell formation. Phosphorus makes it easier for the plant to transfer energy, production of a good root system, and formation of the plants flowers and seeds. A deficiency of phosphorus will result in the leaves of the plant becoming a deep green colour.
Potassium much like phosphorus acts as a catalyst within the plant to activate a number of plant functions. Potassium is important to ward off disease and plays an important role in call growth. A deficiency in potassium can be seen by the mottling of older leaves and a yellowing of the plants veins. Plants low in potassium are likely to lose their fruit before it ripens.
Calcium is the element that support the cell walls in plants as they form. Calcium helps to buffer the excesses of other elements and is an important part of the plants root structure. Calcium tends to be in greater concentrations in the older parts of a plant, this is because it is not very mobile. Any deficiency of calcium is visible on the new growth of the plant, the new leaf tips and growing tips tend to die back and leaves show a brown to blank scorching.
Magnesium is another important element used in photosynthesis. It is vital to the chlorophyll and is used extensively in the production of seeds. A deficiency in magnesium will cause a yellowing on the plants leaves spreading from the centre of the leaf to the edges, seeds produced are also of inferior quality and may be deformed.
Sulphur is as important to the plants structure as calcium. Sulphur is one of the components that play an important part in producing the flavours and odours in most plants. A deficiency of sulphur shows on the younger leaves, they become very pale. A plant will continue growing with a sulphur deficiency only it will tend to be very woody and the plant will grow slowly
Iron is necessary for the production of chlorophyll in plants and is used in photosynthesis. A deficiency of iron will result is the plants new growth becoming almost white and the veins yellowing.
Manganese is involved with many enzymes in plants, especially those that reduce nitrates before proteins are produced. A deficiency of manganese will result in mottled yellowing of the younger leaves, the formation of blooms is also adversely affected.
Zinc is an element involved in the growth of hormones and is important for most plant enzymes. Zinc increases the source of energy for the production of chlorophyll and promotes the absorption of water. A deficiency of zinc will result in extremely undersized leaves.
Copper is used by plants to activate several important enzymes. Copper increases the sugar content in citrus and intensifies the colour of plants like carrots and apples. A deficiency of copper will result in the wilting of new growth, shoots dying back and fruit splitting before it is ripe.
Boron is an element necessary for the normal cell division, protein formation, pollination and seed production in plants. A deficiency of boron will result in the death of the plant starting with the main growing points.
Molybdenum is used in the formation of proteins by plans and affects the ability of the plant to obtain nitrogen from the air. A deficiency of molybdenum is indicated by pale leaves with burnt looking edges, the leaves may also become distorted.