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Biology LibreTexts

31.1A: Plant Nutrition

  • Page ID
    13778
  • Plants meet their nutritional needs for growth by absorbing soil nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide, in addition to the required sunlight.

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

    Describe how the nutritional requirements of plants are met

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

    • Nutrients and water are absorbed through the plants root system.
    • Carbon dioxide is absorbed through the leaves.
    • From seedling to mature plant, there is a complex dynamic between plants and their environment (soil and atmosphere).

    Key Terms

    • germinate: to sprout or produce buds
    • photosynthesis: the process by which plants and other photoautotrophs generate carbohydrates and oxygen from carbon dioxide, water, and light energy in chloroplasts
    • nutrient: a source of nourishment, such as food, that can be metabolized by an organism to give energy and build tissue

    Introduction

    Plants are unique organisms that can absorb nutrients and water through their root system, as well as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Soil quality and climate are the major determinants of plant distribution and growth. The combination of soil nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide, along with sunlight, allows plants to grow. In order to develop into mature, fruit -bearing plants, many requirements must be met and events must be coordinated.

    Take for example the Cucurbitaceae family of plants that were the first cultivated in Mesoamerica, although several species are native to North America. The family includes many edible species, such as squash and pumpkin, as well as inedible gourds. First, seeds must germinate under the right conditions in the soil; therefore, temperature, moisture, and soil quality are important factors that play a role in germination and seedling development. Soil quality and climate are significant to plant distribution and growth. Second, the young seedling will eventually grow into a mature plant with the roots absorbing nutrients and water from the soil. At the same time, the aboveground parts of the plant will absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use energy from sunlight to produce organic compounds through photosynthesis. Finally, the fruit are grown and matured and the cycle begins all over again with the new seeds.

    image

    Examples of fruit bearing plants: For this (a) squash seedling (Cucurbita maxima) to develop into a mature plant bearing its (b) fruit, numerous nutritional requirements must be met.

    There is a complex dynamic between plants and soils that ultimately determines the outcome and viability of plant life. The following sections of this chapter will discuss the many aspects of the nutritional requirements of plants in greater detail.