All plants, whether they are grown in soil or with
hydroponics, require a balance of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (N-P-K), and
trace elements to grow properly. These nutrients are available to plants in
soil in small amounts, but over time they get depleted and need to be supplied
separately to make up the deficit. In hydroponics, it is all the more important
to ensure that plants get the right nutrients in the right amounts.
Hydroponic formulations are structured for specific stages
of a plant's life cycle. A plant's nutrient requirements vary according to the
stages of its life cycle. When plants are in the vegetative stage, they require
greater amounts of nitrogen, which is the key element in development of leaves
and stems. Deficiency of nitrogen during the growth period leads to stunted
growth and yellowing of the leaves. This is the most commonly seen deficiency in
plants. During the flowering cycle the plant requires less nitrogen and more
Nitrogen is essential for plant growth. Nitrogen is a part
of every living cell. The two forms of nitrogen which plants take up are in the
ammonia (NH4) and nitrate (N03) ion forms. Most agronomic crops take up most of
their nitrogen in the nitrate ion form. Plants will utilize N in the (NH4) ion
form if present and available to the plant. Lack of nitrogen and chlorophyll
means that plants cannot utilize sunlight as an energy source to carry on
essential functions such as nutrient uptake. Research has proven that foliar,
or leaf applications of nitrogen, is one form of application that can
supplement a plants nitrogen requirements during the growing cycle.
Phosphate is a very important plant nutrient
(macro-nutrient) needed for the plant to complete its normal production cycle.
The highest level of P in young plants is found in tissue at the growing stage.
As plants mature most of the P moves into the flower and then to the seed or fruit.
~ Phosphorus is needed for photosynthesis.
~ Phosphorus is necessary for plant respiration.
~ Phosphorus is essential for energy storage and transfer.
~ Phosphorus is needed for cell division.
~ Phosphorus is necessary for cell enlargement.
~ Phosphorus is essential for several other plant processes.
An important function of potassium is its influence in
efficient water use. Potassium helps in the process of opening and the closing
of plant leaf pores, called the stomata. Potassium is found in cell walls which
surround stomata. Adequate amounts of potassium can improve drought resistance. Potassium is also responsible for
producing quality crops.
~ Potassium is essential for protein synthesis.
~ Potassium is important in the breakdown of carbohydrates,
providing energy for plants.
~ Potassium helps to control ionic balance.
~ Potassium helps plants to overcome effects of disease.
~ Potassium is essential in the fruit formation stage.
~ Potassium helps improve shelf life of fruits and
~ Potassium is important in the translocation of minerals.
~ Potassium is involved in the activation of more than 60
enzymes which regulate the rates of major plant growth reactions.