Inorganic Plant Nutrition

Volume 15 of the series Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology pp 5-60

General Introduction to the Mineral Nutrition of Plants

  • H. Marschner

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The beneficial effect of adding mineral elements (e.g. plant ash, lime) to soils to improve plant growth has been known in agriculture for more than 2000 years. Nevertheless, even 150 years ago it was still a matter of scientific controversy as to whether mineral elements function as nutrients for plant growth. It was mainly to the credit of Justus von Liebig (1803–1873) that the scattered information concerning the importance of mineral elements for plant growth was collected and summarized, and that mineral nutrition of plants was established as a scientific discipline. This achievement led to a rapid increase in the use of mineral fertilizers. In Europe in particular large amounts of potash, superphosphate and later inorganic nitrogen were used in agriculture and horticulture to improve plant growth.