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Interesting Facts about Nitrogen and Plant Growth

Updated on April 22, 2019
Vellur profile image

A graduate in botany, Nithya Venkat enjoys writing about plants that help sustain life on planet Earth.

Source

Nitrogen is a gas that is essential for plant growth. It is present in the surrounding atmosphere and is the most common gaseous element that accounts for 78 % of the earth’s atmosphere.

Even though Nitrogen is present in the atmosphere in abundance, plants cannot use Nitrogen in its gaseous form. Plants can absorb Nitrogen from the soil only in the form of ammonium, nitrites, and nitrates.

A little about Nitrogen

Nitrogen is a gas with a chemical symbol N. It is nonmetallic, colorless, odorless, tasteless and has an atomic number of 7 with an atomic weight of 14.0067. Nitrogen is slightly lighter than air and has a density of 1.251 grams/liter at 0 degrees Centigrade and a specific gravity of 0.96737.

Why Nitrogen is important for plant growth?

Nitrogen is an important component in plant cells that help to perform metabolic functions essential for growth and reproduction of plants. Presenting the ways in which Nitrogen helps plants to grow, flourish and reproduce -

Structure of a Chlorophyll (N represents Nitrogen)
Structure of a Chlorophyll (N represents Nitrogen) | Source

Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a green color pigment that helps in the process of photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a process through which plants get the energy that they need to grow and reproduce.

During photosynthesis, chlorophyll in the leaves absorbs light energy from the sun and uses this energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the atmosphere, and the hydrogen and carbon dioxide are used to form glucose that gives energy for the plants. Some of this glucose is stored in the plant to be used as and when needed.

Nitrogen is part of the chlorophyll molecule that gives the green color to the plants. In the absence of Nitrogen, the chlorophyll content is depleted, and the process of photosynthesis is considerably reduced. This results in stunted growth, yellowing of leaves and wilting of plants.

Structure of Amino Acid (N represents Nitrogen)
Structure of Amino Acid (N represents Nitrogen) | Source

Amino Acids & Proteins

Nitrogen is a major component of amino acids that form the building blocks of protein.

Amino acids are organic compounds that are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. These amino acids combine in different ways to form proteins.

There are twenty amino acids that plants combine to from proteins and all these twenty proteins have to be produced by the plants. Without Nitrogen the plant cannot produce amino acids.

Lack of Nitrogen will lead to reduced production of amino acids by the plant cells and this in turn will lead to lack of protein needed for the metabolic functions of plant cells.

Some proteins in plants act as structural units in cell walls and cell membranes and other proteins act as enzymes that enable biochemical reactions essential for plant growth and reproduction.

Structure of DNA
Structure of DNA | Source

Genetic Material

The genetic material DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) and RNA (Ribonucleic Acid) present in plants cells are made of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous. Without Nitrogen the genetic material cannot exist.

The DNA contains the traits of a specific plant and when the plant cells reproduce this information is copied and passed onto the new cells. The RNA consist of the instructions passed on by the DNA for the manufacture of proteins.

DNA and RNA

DNA is made of two linear strands twisted in the shape of a double helix. These strands are made of a phosphate-deoxyribose sugar backbone connected across by rungs of the nitrogenous bases such as adenine (A), Guanine (G) Cytosine (C) and Thymine (T). In the double-stranded helix Adenine pairs with Thymine and Guanine with Cytosine.

The RNA is made of Ribonucleic acid and it has the coding information passed on by the DNA for the manufacture of proteins. It is single stranded and is made of phosphate-ribose sugars and the nitrogenous bases Adenine, Thymine, Guanine, and Uracil.

Nitrogen is vital for the formation of the nitrogenous bases. Without the nitrogenous bases the DNA and RNA molecules would be incomplete and they will not perform the functions vital to the existence of plants.

Source

How do plants obtain Nitrogen from the air?

Nitrogen is the most abundant element in the air, but it is not present in a form that the plants can use. The molecular Nitrogen present in the air has two Nitrogen atoms that are triple bonded to each other. This bond is strong and difficult for the plants to break in order to obtain a form of Nitrogen that they can use.

The process of breaking down of two Nitrogen molecules is called Nitrogen Fixation.

In a symbiotic relationship the Rhizobium bacteria present in the roots of Leguminous plants fix the Nitrogen in the atmosphere and converts it into ammonia, a form that plants can absorb and use for growth and reproduction. The leguminous plants in turn supply carbon to the Rhizobium bacteria.

A small amount of Nitrogen in the atmosphere is fixed during lightning and solar radiation.

Plants also obtain the Nitrogen that they need through Nitrogen fertilizers that are added to enrich the soil.

Nitrogen Fertilizers

Lack of Nitrogen in the soil can lead to a low yield of weak crops. Nitrogen fertilizers are added to the soil to enable the growth of healthy plants and a better yield of crops.

Farmers test the soil to determine the Nitrogen content of the soil and depending upon the crops to be grown and the yield to be achieved the amount of Nitrogen fertilizer to be added to the soil is calculated.

If plants are supplied with excess of Nitrogen they begin to produce protoplasm at a rapid rate but at the same time, they are not able to produce the cellular structures needed to enclose the protoplasm in cells. This results in weak plants that can be damaged easily thereby leading to a low yield of crops.

Nitrogen fertilizers are used to makeup for the lack of Nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen fertilizers must be used in such a way that they do not leach out from the soil and pollute the environment.

To Summarize

Nitrogen is a gas that enables plants to perform metabolic functions essential for their growth and reproduction. Nitrogen is the most abundant element in the air, but it is not present in a form that the plants can use.

Plants obtain Nitrogen that they need through a process called Nitrogen Fixation. A small amount of Nitrogen is fixed during lightning. Leguminous plants get the Nitrogen that they need through a symbiotic relationship with the Rhizobium bacteria. Plants also obtain Nitrogen through the fertilizers that are added to the soil.

Nitrogen is a part of chlorophyll, amino acids, proteins, and genetic material in plants that are essential for the process of growth and survival of plants.

Without access to the optimum level of Nitrogen plants will not be able to grow, flourish and reproduce.

References

https://www.livescience.com/51720-photosynthesis.html

http://www.cropnutrition.com/efu-nitrogen

https://academic.oup.com/jxb/article/59/1/111/429851/Amino-acids-and-nitrate-as-signals-for-the

http://wtamu.edu/~cbaird/sq/2014/02/21/how-do-plants-get-their-nitrogen-from-the-air/


© 2017 Nithya Venkat

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    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      9 months ago from Dubai

      Audrey thank you for your appreciation.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Thank you for this informative hub about Nitrogen. I've learned a great deal by reading your well-written article. I had no idea how important nitrogen is to the growth of plants.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      17 months ago from Dubai

      Shalloo thank you.

    • swalia profile image

      Shaloo Walia 

      17 months ago from India

      informative!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      17 months ago from Dubai

      Nell Rose thank you.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      18 months ago from England

      Really interesting and something I knew little about, great hub!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      18 months ago from Dubai

      Thank you Frank Atanacio.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      18 months ago from Shelton

      A very informative and educational piece Vellur... thak you for sharing...

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      19 months ago from Dubai

      manatita44 thank you, I enjoy reading Linda Crompton’s articles.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 

      19 months ago from london

      Very good article on nitrogen and its usefulness with so many things. You remind me of Linda Crompton. Different as you should be, but complimentary. Excellent Article!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      19 months ago from Dubai

      Peggy yes the chemical fertilizers do differ depending on the season. Thank you for stopping by.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      19 months ago from Houston, Texas

      This was interesting to read regarding nitrogen and its use in successfully growing plants. The ratios of nutrients are always different in spring fertilizers verses those put down in fall if using chemical fertilizers.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      22 months ago from Dubai

      Hari Prasad S thank you.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      22 months ago from Dubai

      Jackie Lynnley thank you.

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 

      23 months ago from Bangalore

      Very informative and useful hub nithya.

      - hari

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      23 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Keep up the good work and Merry Christmas!

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Jackie Lynnley thank you and am glad you enjoyed reading.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Linda thank you, Nitrogen as such has many different properties. It is interesting to read about Nitrogen.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Eric Dierker am glad that this article helped you decide the type of fertilizer to use.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Wow, something lighter than air. I can't imagine it, other than a ghost! You write so well to understand. I enjoyed this educational article so much. Thank you!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing so many details about nitrogen in this very informative article, Nithya.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Perfect timing. I need to do some fertilizing right now. You have helped me decide which to use with nitrogen and less yukky stuff. Thanks much.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Bill thank you, you are a great farmer and your farm is amazing.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Chitrangada Sharan thank you and am happy that you found this article informative.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      Ann Carr thank you, you are so kind and generous with your appreciation. I am so happy that you enjoyed reading this article.

    • Vellur profile imageAUTHOR

      Nithya Venkat 

      2 years ago from Dubai

      FlourishAnyway thank you and am glad you found it interesting. The love of nature drew me towards the study of plants.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      As a gardener and urban farmer, I always love articles like this one, to help me to better understand the process of growing. Thank you for some great information.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      2 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great educational hub, very well written and presented!

      I learnt a lot about how plants absorb nitrogen and how it helps in their growth.

      Thanks for sharing this information!

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Informative and useful. I read from your knowledge and glad to have learned this much about a topic seldom talked about in our world.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for this detailed information. I enjoy gardening and this gives me some important background as I'm no scientist! You've explained it without 'blinding me with science' and you are obviously very knowledgeable - the diagrams are great.

      Ann

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      2 years ago from USA

      Glad to see you added a profil picture! This was interesting. I do not have a green thumb at all. I’m so impressed you have a degree in botany. I’d love to know what inspired your love of plants and what you plan to do with your degree.

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