Role of Various Mineral Salts in Plant Growth

By H. M. Bilal, Mujahid Ali, Rabbia Zulfiqar (Horticulture, UOS)

Plants can’t grow without mineral elements. The nutrients they need are soluble minerals. The dissolved ions are exactly the form they take up. If the dosage is controlled, there is no harm in applying a mineral salt to the soil. However, mineral salt is a real boon as a fertilizer in certain applications. Long before scientists understood the role of sodium or chloride in crop production and plant disease management, farmers routinely applied sodium chloride to mineral salt-tolerant crops to boost vigor and yields.
Livestock, poultry and pets need mineral elements for optimal health and development. All domestic and wild animals need mineral salt, just as humans, salty water that washes over agricultural fields during storm events and extreme tides can severely degrade a soils’ ability to produce traditional crops like corn and soybeans. This is already happening to some of Delaware’s coastal farmers and the frequency and extent of these flooding events may increase in the future because of climate change and sea level rise if no other preventative measures are implemented. UD Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with other partners, is investigating an alternative mineral salt-tolerant crop that may be able to sustain the productivity of these impacted lands. Salinity is one of the most brutal environmental factors limiting the productivity of crop plants because most of the crop plants are sensitive to salinity caused by high concentrations of mineral salts in the soil and the area of land affected by it is increasing day by day. For all important crops, average yields are only a fraction – somewhere between 20% and 50% of record yields; these losses are mostly due to drought and high soil salinity, environmental conditions which will worsen in many regions because of global climate change.
Mineral salt is generally defined as a white crystalline substance which gives seawater its characteristic taste and is used for seasoning or preserving food.
In chemistry, a mineral salt is an ionic compound that can be formed by the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. Mineral salts are composed of related numbers of cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negative ions) so that the product is electrically neutral (without a net charge). These component ions can be inorganic, such as chloride (Cl−), or organic, such as acetate (CH
3CO−2), and can be monatomic, such as fluoride (F−), or polyatomic, such as sulfate (SO2−4 ).
Mineral salts can be classified in a variety of ways. Mineral salts that produce hydroxide ions when dissolved in water are called alkali mineral salts. Mineral salts that produce acidic solutions are acidic mineral salts. Neutral mineral salts are those mineral salts that are neither acidic nor basic. Different mineral salts can elicit all five basic tastes, e.g., mineral salty (sodium chloride), sweet (lead diacetate), which will cause lead poisoning if ingested), sour (potassium bitartrate), bitter (magnesium sulfate), and umami or savory (monosodium glutamate).
Solid mineral salts tend to be transparent as illustrated by sodium chloride. Mineral salts exist in many different colors, which arise either from the anions or cations. For example:
• sodium chromate is yellow by virtue of the chromate ion
• potassium dichromate is orange by virtue of the dichromate ion
• cobalt nitrate is red owing to the chromophore of hydrated cobalt(II) ([Co(H2O)6]2+).
• copper sulfate is blue because of the copper(II) chromophore
• potassium permanganate has the violet color of permanganate anion.
• nickel chloride is typically green of [NiCl2(H2O)4]
• sodium chloride, magnesium sulfate heptahydrate is colorless or white because the constituent cations and anions do not absorb in the visible part of the spectrum.
Mineral salts are normally electrical insulator. Molten mineral salts or solutions of mineral salts conduct electricity. For this reason, liquified (molten) mineral salts and solutions containing dissolved mineral salts (e.g., sodium chloride in water) are called electrolytes. Mineral salts characteristically have high melting points. For example, sodium chloride melts at 801 °C. Some mineral salts with low lattice energies are liquid at or near room temperature. These include molten mineral salts, which are usually mixtures of mineral salts, and ionic liquids, which usually contain organic cations. These liquids exhibit unusual properties as solvents.
Strong mineral salts or strong electrolyte mineral salts are chemical mineral salts composed of strong electrolytes. These ionic compounds dissociate completely in water. They are generally odorless and nonvolatile. Strong mineral salts start with Na__, K__, NH4__, or they end with __NO3, __ClO4, or _CH3COO. Most group 1 and 2 metals form strong mineral salts. Weak mineral salts or weak electrolyte mineral salts are, as the name suggests, composed of weak electrolytes. They are generally more volatile than strong mineral salts. They may be similar in odor to the acid or base they are derived from. For example, sodium acetate, NaCH3COO, smells like acetic acid CH3COOH.
First, you need to define what you mean by “mineral salt.” If you’re talking about common table mineral salt, NaCl, that is not good for plants like. It kills them. It has nothing in it that plants can use and destroys cells by pulling moisture out, as well as wrecking the pH.
However, mineral salt is another matter altogether. Mineral salts are necessary for plant life to exist. In natural soil. These mineral salts are either already present or are formed as minerals are broken down by chemical action and microbial processes. Minerals have to be in the form of mineral salts before they are accessible to the plants. So, even organic and natural fertilizers still have to have their mineral content converted into mineral salts for the plants to use them.
Mineral salts unused by the plants stay in the soil and raise the salinity level over time, which makes the soil less and less productive although people put more and more fertilizer on it. That is why some people prefer to use organic fertilizers there’s less chance of the mineral salt concentration getting too high. Minerals are used by plants in very small to microscopic amounts. Plants make their food from light air and water. The minerals are a very small but essential part of the substances the plants use to conduct their life processes. Sodium and chloride are typically viewed as waste ions that plants do not need. This can be true if their levels are high in a water source. However, research has shown that plants do use these elements in small quantities
Sodium is not an essential element for plants but can be used in small quantities like micronutrients to aid in metabolism and synthesis of chlorophyll. In some plants. It can be used as a partial replacement for potassium and aids in the opening and closing of stomates, which helps regulate internal water balance. Chloride is needed in small quantities and aids in plant metabolism, photosynthesis, osmosis (movement of water in and out of plant cells) and ionic balance within the cell.
Salinity reduces plant growth through osmotic and toxic effects and high sodium uptake ratio values cause sodicity (Sufaid Kalar), which increases soil resistance reduces root growth and reduces water movement through the root with a decrease in hydraulic conductivity
A wide range of adaptations and mitigation strategies are required to cope with such impacts. Efficient resource management and crop/livestock improvement for evolving better breeds can help to overcome salinity stress. Such strategies being long drawn and cost intensive. There is a need to develop simple and low-cost biological methods for salinity stress management which can be used on short-term basis. Microorganisms could play a significant role in this respect. If we exploit their unique properties such as tolerance to saline conditions genetic diversity, synthesis of compatible solutes, production of plant growth promoting hormones, bio-control potential, and their interaction with crop plants.

Mujahid Ali

I am a PhD scholar in Institute of Horticultural Sciences, UAF and Visiting Lecturer in Horticulture Department in University of Sargodha.

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