Essential plant nutrients: Types, Functions & deficiency symptoms in crop

Plant Nutrients, Functions & Deficiencies

Nutrients are the fundamental requirement for plants or crops for growth, development, food production & their quantity & better quality production. Among the elements of periodic table, plant requires 16 different elements as nutrients for their growth & development which are described below:

Macro Nutrients:

Those nutrients that are required in large quantity for plant growth & development are macro-nutrients. It includes: Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium & Sulphur. Hydrogen, Oxygen & carbon are abundantly found by plant in natural condition. Among them, Nitrogen, Phosphorus & Potassium are also known as primary nutrients while Magnesium, Calcium & sulphur are secondary nutrients under macro nutrients. These nutrients however need to be supplied to the plants.

Micro Nutrients:

Those nutrients that are necessary for plant growth but requires in very low amount or trace amount are called micro nutrients. Higher amount of these nutrients leads to toxicity in plant. It includes: iron, Manganese, Boron, Zinc, Copper, Molybdenum & Chlorine.

Functions & Deficiencies of Macro Nutrients:

Carbon, hydrogen & oxygen are abundantly found in carbon dioxide & water which are beyond human control & no need to be supplied. They will never show the deficiency symptoms in the crop plants. The remaining are elements are required to be supplied from external source. They will otherwise show deficiency symptoms which are discussed below:


  1. It is important element of plant that helps in synthesizing protein & chlorophyll in plant.
  2. Helps to uptake & use of phosphorus & potassium fertilizers.
  3. Helps in increasing plant height with dark green color.
  4. Increases protein content in cereal crops like rice.
  5. Helps in development of fibers, branches & leaves in plant.
  6. Deficiency: Causes gradual yellowing of older leaves. Finally causing to complete drying of leaves & stunting of plant. Extreme dwarfing of plant may occur in its deficiency while higher dose may lead susceptibility toward diseases & pest attack.



  1. Has greater role in developing flower, fruit & seed in plant.
  2. Helps in maturity of crop.
  3. Helps in filling grains & developing fruits.
  4. Neutralize the effect of higher dose of nitrogen along with resistance to diseases & pest.
  5. Deficiency: The deficiency of phosphorus may cause stunting of plant. Dwarf plant with reddish or purple colored leaves. Slower plant growth & late crop maturity.



  1. Helps in increasing nitrogen fixation rate by symbiotic bacteria by making availability of starch.
  2. Enzyme activation.
  3. Increases the resistance towards diseases & pest.
  4. Helps strong trunk of crop & filling the grain for completely filled grain.
  5. Lowers the impact of nitrogen making plant succulent & phosphorus causing early maturity.
  6. Helps in developing protein & chlorophyll in plant.
  7. Deficiency: The deficiency of Potassium may cause margin of older leaves looks like sun burn & dry out though the inner part remains green. Poor root development along with weak trunk & collapsing of stem of plant.



  1. Calcium is involved in cell formation in plant hereby helping in developing root, leaves, new buds in plants.
  2. Helps in cell division, carbohydrate transportation & decreasing acidity in soil.
  3. Helps in activity of symbiotic nitrogen fixing bacteria.
  4. Deficiency: The deficiency of calcium may lead to curling of leaves & new buds, die back from tip & crushing of leaves.



  1. Helps in storage of sugar, utilization of phosphorus, synthesis of nucleic acid, starch translocation, formation of protein, oils, vitamins, & carbohydrates.
  2. Deficiency: The deficiency of magnesium may cause light yellowing of leaves but with green veins. White veins in other parts of plant.



  1. Helps in chlorophyll formation, synthesis of oil, nodule formation in legume, & seed production in plant.
  2. Helps in utilization of vitamins.
  3. Deficiency: The deficiency of sulphur may cause Slight yellowing of middle portion of younger leaves resembling deficiency of nitrogen except the younger leaves.

Micro nutrients:


  1. Helps in formation & preservation of chlorophyll with support in formation of enzyme.
  2. Deficiency: The deficiency of iron may cause light yellowing of younger leaves with veins dark green. Thin stem with clustered leaves at a point of growth.



  1. Helps in formation of chlorophyll, root nodules in legume, & respiration in plant.
  2. Enzyme activation.
  3. Deficiency: The deficiency of manganese may cause necrotic cells in younger leaves with yellowing in middle portion of leaves with thick green veins.



  1. Helps in cell division & protein formation.
  2. Deficiency : The deficiency of Boron may cause dead heart in cauli, holes/cracking in radish etc.
  3. Also cause incomplete ripening with stunted plant growth.



  1. Important role in utilization of nitrogen & phosphorus, reproduction, seed development, protein formation etc.
  2. Deficiency: The deficiency of zinc may cause Khaira disease in paddy.
  3. Yellow stripes in leaves, necrosis of older leaves, extreme stunting of plants.



  1. Helps in utilization of Iron & synth of vitamin A.
  2. Deficiency: The deficiency of copper may cause Die back from tip in mandarian, leaf blight from tip in onion & vegetables, lack of flowering, leaf falling etc.



  1. Helps in activity of symbiotic nitrogen fixing bacteria.
  2. Helps in utilization & formation if nitrogen.
  3. Deficiency: The deficiency of molybdenum may cause Whiptail in cauli, bud/head loss, etc.



  1. Helps in crop growth.
  2. Deficiency: susceptibility of leaves to diseases, moisture stress, cracking of main stem, etc.

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