Nutrient absorption by plants

Nutrient absorption by plants

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Nutrient uptake by plants occurs through the roots.

Introduction (macronutrients, micronutrients and soil)

Just like us, plants need nutrients. These can be classified as macronutrients (required more) and micronutrients (required less).

Macronutrients include hydrogen, carbon and oxygen, which plants obtain through the photosynthetic process. However, some other macronutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus and micronutrients like chlorine and manganese, the plants absorb using their roots.

Soil (or water in the case of aquatic plants) is the nutrient reservoir for plants. Their root system consists of several branches of the main root. The hairs that protrude from these branches help increase the nutrient absorption surface. Around the root system there is a great diversity of nutrients, some of them interesting for plants.

Main features

The simplest form of nutrient absorption is the displacement of the solute from the most concentrated medium (soil) to the least concentrated one (inside the root surface cells). This is a type of transport that occurs in favor of a chemical gradient. That's why we call it simple diffusion.

It turns out that only oxygen, carbon dioxide and ammonia are able to cross the cell membrane by simple diffusion. After all, she is selective, semipermeable! So in the absorption of nutrients by plants we also find:

- Channels

Cell membrane proteins that play the pore role by passing a type of solute or a group of solutes.

- Carriers

Specific proteins that have a binding site in which the solute mates and is recognized.

- Pumps

A solute also attaches to a bomb's recognition site, which often carries ions into the plant cell.


Carnivorous plants get many ions by absorbing them with their roots. But most of the nitrogen they need comes from the body of the devouring insects. This enables them to colonize and stay on nitrogen-poor soils. Thus, they live where other plants cannot be.