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Nitrates are one of the many elements a plant requires in order to grow up healthy and strong. There are three primary macronutrients vital to plant health and growth: Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Nitrates fall into the Nitrogen category, without which a plant cannot thrive. Nitrogen is in the air we breathe, but plants must absorb their Nitrogen through the soil instead, which is where Nitrates become a key player in plant health.

What Are Nitrates?

Nitrates are a form of Nitrogen that plants absorb through their roots. They are used by the plant to create amino acids, which help to create proteins. Without Nitrates, a plant will not be able to photosynthesize properly, which is the process by which plants absorb nutrients from the sun.

A plant that cannot photosynthesize cannot grow to its full potential. Soil may start off rich and nutritious, but as plants grow they absorb the nutrients from the soil through their roots, depleting the amount of nutrients in the soil over time. This, if left uncorrected, will eventually cause deficiencies such as Nitrate deficiency.

What Does Nitrate Deficiency Look Like?

Plants that lack Nitrates start to turn yellow. The absorption of Nitrates contributes to the amount of chlorophyll in your plant which is what gives leaves their green color, so plants that don’t have enough Nitrates will become pale or yellow.

This green color is necessary to a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the sun, so a plant that loses its ability to photosynthesize cannot thrive and will likely be stunted in growth. If a crop plant is Nitrate deficient then you will see a lower crop yield from the plant.

How Do I Correct Nitrate Deficiency?

If you suspect that your plants are deficient in Nitrates, you can easily correct the issue by adding fertilizer to the soil. Fertilizers will list on the bag what ratios of macronutrients they contain by number, for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K),

Proper water is also important for plants to take up nutrients, as they use the water to take nutrients up through their roots. There are also plants considered “Nitrogen fixers”, such as clover or peas. These are plants that add Nitrogen back into the soil as they grow, so they are often grown throughout the colder months to help contribute to nutrient-rich soil for the next year’s crop.

All plants require Nitrogen in order to grow, and Nitrates are the top contributor to Nitrogen levels in your soil. As with all things, a careful balance is important.

Too few Nitrates will lead to Nitrate deficiency, but too many can cause issues as well, such as algae blooms if the soil isn’t capable of draining away the excess, so be sure to choose the right quantity and variety of fertilizer for the plant you intend to treat.

Nitrates are an important part of plant health and growth, but having a Nitrate deficiency is easy to treat and to avoid altogether with just a little bit of planning and regular fertilizing.