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Plant Nutrients - Mobile Vs. Immobile

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Mobile vs Immobile Nutrients


Fig. 1 Older leaves on celery turning yellow while the growing points in the center remain green.

The last time I looked there were seventeen known essential elements for plants. Each element performs a specific function. When conditions are at optimum levels we see a healthy plant, but when one or more element is deficient we see a "needy" plant. To determine which of these various elements is lacking, one has to begin by understanding where the plant stores all its limited reserves. Some elements are like cash - they can be used anywhere, while some are like gift cards - which can only be spent in specific stores. Plant nutrients are either plant-mobile or plant-immobile. Understanding these two characteristics is important because it helps gardeners interpret deficiency symptoms more accurately.

What are plant-mobile nutrients?

Plant-mobile nutrients are those that are capable of being translocated within the plant. When a plant is deficient of these elements, the nutrient that is already within the plant will be transported to where it is needed most - the young tissues. Deficiency symptoms of plant-mobile elements are observed on the older leaves first. One example of a plant-mobile nutrient is nitrogen. If nitrogen is deficient in a plant, older leaves would turn yellowish first while the newer leaves remain relatively green (Fig. 1). The plant directs the nutrient where it is most needed to prolong the life of the stressed plant.

Examples of plant mobile nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), and potassium (K). Manganese and sulfur are moderately mobile

What are plant-immobile nutrients?

By now, the answer to this question is obvious. Plant-immobile nutrients cannot be translocated from older tissue to a new one due to the nature of the elements and sometimes other conditions. In other words they are stuck where ever they landed the first time. They have reached their destination. Deficiency symptoms for these elements are observed in the young plant parts. Calcium is an example of plant-immobile elements. It plays an important role in cell expansion. When calcium is deficient, the young shoots and flower buds exhibit the devastating effects. If the condition is not corrected the shoots and bud get aborted eventually.

Examples of plant-immobile nutrients are: Iron (Fe), Calcium (Ca), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn), Copper (Cu), and Boron (B).

Plant nutrients are like humans. Some are always moving to where the activity is going on while others just settle where they landed the first time until they go back to the ground.


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Yes Mr.Green The macronutrients are essential for any step of any plant life.

Main macronutrients:

N = Nitrogen: This element provides the basis for the formation of proteins, and is especially important in the formation of chlorophyll (conversion of sunlight into food through photosynthesis). Large amount of nitrogen contained in the plants is found in leaves.

Thus is a necessary element for the growth and development of leaf mass, as well as the formation of "body" in the plant.

P = Phosphorus essential for the formation of DNA and formation of cell membranes. Phosphorus is an important element in the formation of flowers and fruits.

In flowering and fruit can be used in higher amount in flowering periods.

K = Potassium is absorbed in the form of potassium ion (K +). Intervenes in the regulation of the opening and closing of the stomata of the leaves. Participates in the transport of nutrients by the phloem. Should be adjusted according to the season. With the arrival of winter tends to increase the dosage of potassium.

Secondary macronutrients:

Sulphur is absorbed in the sulfate form, and part of some amino acids and some protein from the plant. Along with phosphorus, nitrogen, carbon and water, it forms a group referred to as structural elements, which intervenes in the formation of the "skeleton" of the plant.

Calcium: its function is structural, giving rigidity to cell membranes as well as a regulator of certain reactions that occur in the plant. Acts as a protective agent against high salt concentrations (contained in water) and against certain toxic elements that can be absorbed by the plant.

Magnesium essential for the formation of chlorophyll.

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