5 Iron Uses in Plants for Growth and Fertilizer

Iron is a chemical element with atomic number 26. It has Fe as its symbol on the periodic table. Iron is one of the most abundant element on Earth and in the human body. This chemical element is known for its great advantages to the human body and industrial purposes.

Iron’s chemical symbol, Fe, is derived from the Latin word Ferrum. The solid form of iron has been used for centuries by the world’s ancient and modern civilizations. Iron can create hemoglobin in red blood cells to carry oxygen to entire body parts. Aside from its medical and technological benefits, iron plays an important part in the circle of life of plants. However, here is the iron uses in plants:

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Characteristic of Iron

Iron is classified as one of many transition metals on the periodic table. It has a wide range of oxidation numbers, from -2 to +6. Interestingly, iron is reactive to water and oxygen. But because oxidation can occur easily on its surface, iron is prone to corrosion more than other transition metals.

Solid iron has been used since ancient times for various uses because it has low melting point, 1538 °C, while its boiling point is 2862 °C. This chemical element has different types of allotropes, which are ferrite, austenite, delta iron, beta iron and hexaferrum at a very high pressure level.

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Iron uses in plants is a primary element when it comes to living creatures. Iron-proteins can be found in all living organisms, from bacteria to humans. It is an essential element due to its key roles in different biochemistry events. It creates complexes in blood cells to transport oxygen to the entire body of vertebrates. It is also involved in the process of cellular respiration, reduction and oxidation in plants and animals.

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Iron in the natural environment

Iron is commonly found in soils in a form of ferric oxide or Fe2O3 which gives the red color to soil. The availability and concentration of iron depends on the oxide, hydroxide, and phosphate forms. Iron becomes oxygen sources for bacteria if it carbonate or sulfide compounds in soils.

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Iron in plants

Every living creature in this world needs sufficient food sources and nutrients to grow and survive. Plants need particular chemical elements to ensure its life expectancy and iron is one of them. Iron in plants can be found in ferredoxin, cytochromes, chloroplasts and mitochondria.

In plants, iron is both needed as micronutrients and macronutrients. It is very important to the growth and health of plants. A large quantity of iron as micronutrients is required although the amount depends on the pH of the medium. If the medium’s pH increases, the amount of iron will be less available and vice versa.

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1. Iron for the production of energy in plants

Iron uses in plants as one of components in several enzymes and pigments. It helps reducing the quantity of nitrate and sulfate and produces energy for photosynthetic organisms. It also helps form chlorophyll or green pigments found in algae and plants.

Chlorophyll produces the green color on leaves and very vital for photosynthesis process. It absorbs energy from light and transfers the chemical energy to the entire parts of the photosystem. The energy is later stored as carbohydrate molecules and turned into oxygen. The oxygen will be released by plants to the environment.

Iron is known for its part in the transportation of oxygen in the human body. But, it also helps carry various types of elements in a plant’s circulatory system. Even though only a small amount of iron is needed by a plant, it is important to move oxygen through its system. Iron deficiency in plants can lead into chlorosis.

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2. Iron transportation system in plants

Iron uses in plants or Fe from soils enters the plant root by following water needed by plants after the process of transpiration or evaporation of water in plants. Another way of iron moving to the root is through diffusion from high concentration region to a smaller one. This procedure of iron entering the plant root depends on the thickness and density of the root.

After Iron manages to enter the plant system, it is moved to one place to another in plants by their organic acids with citrate as one of them. Once it is trans-located inside the membranes, it will be processed by the organic acids to prevent precipitation with phosphate or hydroxide. Many scientists believe that translocation of iron in plant shoots is much harder than it seems.

Iron in plants is commonly found in the plastids, an organelle found in green plants, algae and some other protists. Apoplast, the free spaces outside the plasma membrane, is also believed to store iron and supply iron to the upper parts of a plant that suffers from iron deficiency.

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3. Chlorosis

Chlorosis is a situation where the production of chlorophyll occurs less than it is required for plants to perform photosynthesis. When a plant suffers from chlorosis, its leaves will turn pale, yellow or yellow-white because it cannot produce the green color from chlorophyll.

This condition is dangerous for plants. The loss of chlorophyll can cause plants to lose its ability to produce energy through photosynthesis. When it fails to perform photosynthesis, plants will likely to die because it has no energy left in the storage anymore. This is why iron plays a key role in plants’ respiratory system.

Unsuitable pH conditions of soils can result in the loss of iron in plants. Basic soils or soils with pH more than 7.2 is dangerous for plants and so are acidic soils. Excessive amounts of calcium and carbonate concentrations in soils can also cause iron deficiency.

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4. Iron toxicity

Even though iron is immensely needed by plants to produce chlorophyll for photosynthesis, the high level of iron in a plant is toxic. Iron toxicity also occurs when the pH of a plant is low. This disease often happens to zonal geraniums, Mexican marigolds and other plants that prefer to grow with pH between 5.8 and 6.6. Iron toxicity can occur during the whole growth cycle of a plant.

This condition leads to the increase of polyphenol oxidase activity which reduces the oxidation power of roots. Other symptoms of iron toxicity are yellow to brown marks will appear on the surface of the leaves, the size of leaves will become narrow even though they still retain their green color, leaf tips will turn dry, restricted growth and damaged roots with black or brown coating on the surfaces.

Iron toxicity can also happen when the level of zinc in plants is below average or when the soil is too wet or flooded by water.

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5. Iron deficiency and toxicity treatments

Iron uses in plants is commonly found in soils in a form of ferric oxide or Fe2O3 which gives the red color to soil. The availability and concentration of iron depends on the oxide, hydroxide, and phosphate forms. Iron becomes oxygen sources for bacteria if it carbonate or sulfide compounds in soils. Organic matter and compost can prevent iron deficiency in plants although it depends on choosing the appropriate type of soil for particular types of plants.

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In order to prevent chlorosis, some water sources can contain iron although it is not common. Fertilizer is known for providing plants with high amount of iron. The ability to adjust the pH of soils by adding or reducing the amount of compost, manure and other fertilizers is needed. Chelate compounds such as Fe EDTA and Fe EDDHA can produce iron immediately.

To prevent iron toxicity, planting rugged and tolerant varieties are recommended instead of crops that are too sensitive to pH. It is also suggested to avoid supplying plants with continuous concentration of iron to poorly drained soils. In addition, applying additional fertilizers that contain kalium, phosphorus, and magnesium can control iron toxicity that is currently happening. Reducing the amount of iron in soils can be achieved by integrating MnO2 ha-1.

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