Nutrients in Soil
When researching topsoil, you may have read around the internet as well as here on our own site that the nutrients within the soil & fertilisers are very important and can really help struggling plants thrive, but what nutrients are found in your soil that help plants? Why does soil erode? In this blog we will answer all of these questions and more!
What are Nutrients?
Quite simply, nutrients are the substances that are essential for the growth, development and maintenance of all life on earth. Each life form will require a different set of nutrients and in differing amounts, but when it comes to life in the garden, there are a few nutrients that you will find come up commonly and that are particularly useful to your plants at home.
Nutrients Your Plants Need in Soil:
- Nitrogen. One of the most important ingredients of soil and will help your plants grow. Nitrogen is particularly important to aid in plant growth as it is found in almost every plant cell as well as plant proteins. It is even found in chlorophyll which makes plants like the blades of grass a healthy green.
- Phosphorous. A healthy phosphorous level ensures that your plant can convert energy from the sun and photosynthesize as well as breaking down carbohydrates. If your plants are deficient in Phosphorous, it may result in stunted growth and a dark colouration of the leaves.
- Potassium: Another essential nutrient to plant life which aids with the movement of water and how effectively it can be absorbed. The stomata, the part of a plant that will regulate how water, oxygen and carbon dioxide flow to and from your plants will be stunted if your plant is deficient of potassium as well as resulting in lower crop yield.
- Magnesium: Magnesium has several roles to play in aiding plant life. One of the most important jobs it does is aiding the photosynthesis process. If your plants are deficient in magnesium, you may find the leaves become discoloured and look pale. This effects mature leaves first and then spreads to the younger, smaller leaves. Over time, you may also find red/purple spots on the effected leaves.
- Calcium: Just like in humans where calcium helps strengthen our teeth and bones, in plants calcium helps the growth and development of plant cells. If your plants do not receive enough calcium, it can stunt their growth and make them more susceptible to disease.
- Sulfur: Another essential mineral found in soil and helps create important enzymes and plant proteins.
There are other nutrients found in soil that will likely only be trace amounts such as iron, zinc, copper and boron. If you think your plants are suffering from a lack of important nutrients, they may benefit from a fertiliser or addition of compost. Although important, nutrients are only needed in small doses and overfeeding your plants with fertiliser can cause adverse effects. When using different chemical solutions always read the label carefully and follow the instructions they provide.
Overtime, the quality of your soil can degrade due to a number of different factors. Soil pollution or otherwise known as soil erosion is the process of the nutrient level slowly depleting over time and in some extreme cases such as land fill sites, there can be toxic chemicals found in the soil at high enough levels to risk human & plant life.
Anyone who remembers their high school biology lesson will remember that crop rotation is good practice when it comes to farming and crop management. By growing different crops in different sections of land each season, ‘rotating’ the crops each year will help reduce soil erosion as the different plants require different sets of nutrients and so the demand for certain nutrients is different each year. This giving the soil a chance to recover and reduces soil erosion.