The uptake of nutrients is the basis of life for plants. The majority of nutrients are found in the soil and are taken up by a plant's roots. But how exactly do the nutrients in the soil get to the root surface? The nutrients that are already in close proximity to the root surface are immediately spatially available to the plant. Interception, mass flow, diffusion, and mycorrhization are pathways for more distant minerals to reach the roots of a plant. It should be noted that not all nutrients are available to the plant, for example due to their binding form or the pH value in the soil.
Active nutrient transport to the roots
Mass flow is the active transport of nutrients towards the root surface. It describes the flow of water towards the root, which is driven by transpiration and the concentration of nutrients in the soil solution. The nutrients that are dissolved in this water reach the root surface.
Passive nutrient transport to the roots
Diffusion is the mixing of dissolved particles in a solvent. This happens evenly and independently due to the movement of particles. Diffusion is not an active transport of nutrients, but occurs as compensation for differences in concentration between soil and roots and depends on the diffusion coefficients of the nutrients. Nutrient diffusion can occur either toward the root when nutrient uptake is greater than transport by mass flux, or away from the root when nutrient uptake is less than transport of nutrients by mass flux.
Interception is not active transport, but describes the displacement of soil volume by root volume. This means that the roots will grow and thereby reach new areas of soil, and with it additional nutrients. Many factors contribute to root volume. Soil conditions such as the pH value, soil depth or compaction and the type of plant and the stage of development.
Symbiosis makes it possible
Mycorrhization describes a symbiosis between the roots of a plant and a fungus that colonizes the fine roots of the plant. The fungus forms so-called hyphae on the root, which help the plant to open up the soil more widely and thus to better supply it with nutrients. Since the hyphae are very small, they can penetrate small soil pores. In the hyphae, nutrients are actively transported to the roots.
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