ReachOut: Phosphorus, Magnesium and Zinc

Mike Zwingman

Mike Zwingman

Once again, these three nutrients share basic functions with a lot of other nutrients we deal with on a daily basis. Thinking about how they work together, or help each other work better, is what we need to focus on in this process of Evolution, not Revolution.

Phosphorus has roles that cannot be performed by any one of the other nutrients. In a larger function, Phosphorus is essential in root formation and growth, and final seed quality at harvest. This function in the roots aids in water use efficiency. Phosphorus is also essential in the process of making sugars in photosynthesis. The transfer of high energy phosphate by ADP or ATP to other molecules (phosphorylation) sets the stage for many other essential processes to occur. Some of the processes are uptake, transport and metabolism of other nutrients. Much like nitrogen, phosphorus is a vital component of genes and chromosomes. Phosphorus is an essential part of carrying the genetic code from one generation to the next, providing the “blueprint” for all aspects of plant growth and development. Lastly, in corn in particular, Phosphorus hastens the crop’s maturity. DSC00229

Magnesium is a key element in chlorophyll production; it also is an activator in many plant enzymes. Having balanced levels of Magnesium improves the utilization and mobility of phosphorus in the plant, and influences uniformity and rate of plant maturity.

Zinc plays an important role in many enzyme functions throughout the plant. Zinc also is important in getting Phosphorus into the plant, where Magnesium will help move it around in the plant. Early on, Zinc is important to help the plant produce its own Auxins that will drive root development. Zinc has an integral role in the formation of pollen in the plant, protein metabolism, maintenance of the integrity of biological membranes, and resistance to infections by certain pathogens.Header1

Here is the trick; these three nutrients require a great amount of balance in the soil to work efficiently with each other. Too much of any one relative to the other two sends the whole system into minor chaos. For example, too much P or Mg and the plant will have trouble with Zn. When the plant has trouble with Zn it will have trouble taking up the right amount of P, even though it is readily accessible. We will talk more about this delicate balance this summer at the RD Series stops. Juggling isn’t an easy skill to learn, but it is one we will have to master to use these nutrients most productively. Won’t you learn how to juggle with me?