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Like all living things, plants need to feed. We all know that they do it mainly through their roots and receiving light, but how exactly does the process of vegetal Nutricion? How do plants eat and what do they need to obtain energy to live?

If you want to learn more about how plants are nourished, keep reading us in this Green Ecologist article in which we explain the plant nutrition process with diagrams and more interesting facts.

What plants need to live - summary

The vast majority of plants are autotrophic organisms, that is, they do not need to feed or nourish themselves from other living beings, but rather they make their own food from inorganic elements.

Through the photosynthesis of plants, respiration and their ability to absorb nutrients through the roots, they receive everything they need. Of all the elements that plants can absorb, there are 16 of them that are considered Essential elements. They are as follows:

  • Carbon
  • Oxygen
  • Hydrogen
  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Match
  • Magnesium
  • Sulfur
  • Chlorine
  • Iron
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Zinc
  • Boron
  • Molybdenum

Plants obtain oxygen and carbon through the process of respiration. Hydrogen is obtained from the water that their roots absorb and the rest of the mineral micronutrients are also obtained by absorption by the roots, that is, from the soil or earth.

Learn more about What plants need to live and Autotrophic Organisms: what they are, characteristics and examples with these other educational articles from Green Ecologist.

Image: Pinterest

How is plant nutrition - process

All the plant nutrition process can be divided into various phases different:

Nutrient absorption and transport to the xylem

The process begins when the plant absorbs mineral salts and water from its roots. The absorption is carried out by means of specialized parts of the roots, which are called absorbent hairs. Once absorbed, the roots transport the nutrients and water to the xylem, which is where the sap is conducted.

Transport of water and mineral salts

The combination of mineral salts or micronutrients absorbed by the roots and the water gives rise to what we call raw sap.

Unlike animals, which spend large amounts of energy pumping blood throughout their bodies, plants are capable of raising sap to their leaves with very low energy expenditure. They achieve this through the accumulation of water in the root tissues, which pushes the sap upwards, in addition to the main force, which is created by the suction produced by the transpiration of water in the leaves.

Thus, water for plants is doubly important, since it fulfills the functions of both nutrition and helps transport the sap to different parts of the plant.

Gas exchange

The gas exchange of plants occurs in stomata and lenticels. The former are located above all on the underside of the leaves, although they can be found in lesser concentration throughout the epidermal tissue. The latter, on the other hand, are found in the epidermis of branches and stems of woody plants. Find out more about What are the stomata of a plant here.

Thanks to them, the plant absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide in its respiration, a process that is reversed during the day when photosynthesis is carried out and, therefore, it then absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.

Photosynthesis and nutrient distribution

In this phase, the leaves, thanks to chlorophyll, they manage to produce glucose from carbon dioxide, water and light energy. It is an incredibly important process that has shaped the world as we know it today, as it has served to fill it with vegetation of all kinds.

During photosynthesis, a mixture of sugars, salts and amnio acids is synthesized in the leaves, which is what we call elaborated SAP and it is already usable food for the plant. These nutrients are transported by phloem towards consumption areas, such as fruits, seeds or developing areas.

Plant respiration

Plant respiration usually occurs at night. Like other living things, plants use oxygen to break down nutrients, such as starch. Throughout this process, which occurs in the stomata, the plant absorbs oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. Learn more about this topic in this other post about Where plants breathe and how they do it.

In addition to all this, there are special cases of the plant nutrition, like those of carnivorous plants, parasitic plants or symbiotic plants, with their own feeding mechanisms.

Image: Virtual High School

Difference between plant and animal nutrition

The main difference between plant and animal nutrition is that, while plants are mostly autotrophic organisms, except for very specific cases, animals are always heterotrophic organisms.

  • The autotrophic nutrition It is characterized by being able to create organic matter from inorganic elements.
  • The heterotrophic nutrition, on the other hand, it is one in which the organism transforms organic matter into nutrients.

In this other article you can learn more about the Difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms with examples.

Due to this, plants form the base of the food chain, since they are responsible for transforming light and micronutrients or inorganic elements of the environment into organic matter and macronutrients. Later, the herbivorous animals feed on them, and will produce in their organisms other structures and nutrients such as animal proteins and fats, which will be absorbed by the carnivorous animals.

Now that you know the process of plant nutrition, you may want to learn more about The life cycle of plants and the Types of plant tissues, their characteristics and functions with these other Green Ecologist articles.

If you want to read more articles similar to Plant nutrition: process, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

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