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Nutrient movement within plants

Nutrient deficiency symptoms in plantsNow that you understand how nutrients move through the soil and into plants, you can finish the journey with nutrient movement within plants.  A nutrient's mobility once it gets within a plant's cells will determine where deficiencies show up, as well as how you should apply fertilizers.  For example, Jeff Lowenfels is quick to point out that foliar feeding is really only appropriate for very mobile nutrients since immobile nutrients won't be able to move out of the leaves to where they're needed by the plant.

I'll start with those immobile nutrients.  Calcium and boron are the least able to move once they've been consumed by a plant, so any calcium or boron deficiencies will show up in growing tips.  More mobile nutrients are usually moved from older (less efficient) areas to these critical growing zones, so any problems in very young leaves and buds are likely to be due to nutrients the plant really can't move at all.

Deficiencies of slightly-more-mobile nutrients (like nickel, molybdenum, sulfur, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc) will show up in young leaves.  Finally, very mobile nutrients in plants include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, molybdenum, and chlorine.  Since plants can take mobile nutrients away from old, inefficient leaves if necessary and move them to young leaves, deficiencies tend to show up in the oldest leaves first.

Lowenfels also went into depth about what each nutrient is used for within the plant, but I didn't feel that information was immediately useful for the average gardener.  So, if you want to learn more, check out Teaming with Nutrients and read for yourselves.

Trailersteading is an inspiring account of how several homesteaders went back to the land using old mobile homes.

This post is part of our Teaming with Nutrients lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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Please explain (again) your take on soil testing. I've never had one done and I've gardened for many years. As your photo depicts, deficiencies are detectable by plant performance. I employ crop rotation and try to compensate for particular plant needs at or before planting and religiously compost.

Comment by Karen Thu Sep 26 16:31:21 2013

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