Plants and mineral ions

Plants need minerals for healthy growth. They are absorbed through the roots by active transport as mineral ions dissolved in the soil water.

Magnesium and nitrate

Magnesium ions and nitrate ions are needed by plants. A plant will not grow well if it cannot get enough of these ions, and it will show symptoms of mineral deficiency.

Mineral ionNeeded forEffects of deficiency
MagnesiumMaking chlorophyllLeaves turn yellow
NitrateMaking amino acidsStunted growth

Nitrogen fertilisers

Fertilisers are used to replace minerals used by plants.

Nitrogen fertilisers - such as ammonium nitrate and ammonium phosphate - provide plants with water-soluble sources of nitrogen that they can absorb through their roots. They allow farmers to increase the yield and quality of their crops.

However, overuse can cause problems. Eutrophication happens when excess nitrate (or phosphate) enters rivers or lakes from fields. This can lead to the death of fish and other aquatic animals.

An illustration showing eutrophication in water caused by an increase in nitrate and phosphate from fertilisers.Eutrophication can cause problems in rivers and lakes