Nutrients are required by the body for its proper functioning. They maintain our brain, skin, bones, muscles, nerves, etc. Some nutrients are required in higher amounts and are known as macronutrients, while a few are required in smaller amounts and are known as micronutrients.
Let us have a detailed look at the different aspects of the micronutrients required by the human and plant body for its growth and development.
What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are nutrients that are required by the body in lesser amounts for its growth and development. They play a major role in the metabolic activities of the body. These include vitamins and minerals.
Since our body cannot produce vitamins and minerals, they are taken externally from different food products. The micronutrient content for every food is different, therefore, it is advisable to eat varieties of food for enough vitamin and mineral consumption.
These micronutrients help in preventing and fighting certain diseases. However, they should be taken in adequate quantities. Excess intake or inadequate intake results in several disorders such as visual impairment, mental retardation, etc.
Types of Micronutrients
Micronutrients, i.e., vitamins and minerals can be divided into the following types:
Most of the vitamins can be dissolved in water. They are difficult to store in the body and get flushed out in urine when consumed in large quantities. They play an important role in producing energy. Since they are not stored in the body, it is important to take them enough from different food sources.
These vitamins do not dissolve in water. These are stored in liver and fatty tissues for future use. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are important fat-soluble vitamins. They play a major role in the proper functioning of the immune system, proper bone development, proper vision, and protection of cells from damage.
These are required in higher amounts as compared to the trace minerals. The important macrominerals and their functions include:
- Calcium- For the proper structure and function of bones.
- Phosphorus – Cell membrane structure
- Magnesium- Enzyme reactions
- Sodium- Fluid balance and maintenance of blood pressure
- Chloride- Maintains fluid balance and formation of digestive juices.
- Potassium- Nerve impulse transmission and muscle function.
- Sulphur- present in all the living tissues
These are required in very small amounts but perform various important functions in our body. Iron, manganese, copper, zinc, iodine, fluoride, and selenium are some of the important trace minerals required by the body.
Micronutrients for Plants
There are seven essential micronutrients in plants. Some nutrients control the permeability of a cell membrane and some other control the osmotic pressure, buffer action, etc.
Boron (B), Zinc (Zn), Manganese (Mn), Iron (Fe), Copper (Cu), Molybdenum (Mo), Chlorine (Cl) are some of the important micronutrients for plants. Lack of any of these nutrients affects growth and development.
Boron is found in tourmaline- a highly insoluble mineral and it is essential for proper forming and strengthening of the cell wall. Boron plays an important role in flowering, fruiting, cell division and pollen germination. Deficiency of boron results in reduced seed and grain production. Boron deficiencies occur generally during drought periods. Excess supply or availability of boron is also harmful to the plant.
Zinc is an essential element which helps in photosynthesis, energy production and regulation of growth. Zinc deficiency may cause slower maturity and reduction in the size of leaf. Zinc deficiencies often occur during cold, wet spring season.
Manganese is essential for photosynthesis and nitrogen metabolism. Premature leaf drop and delayed maturity are the symptoms of manganese deficiency. Manganese is abundant in wet soils, whereas dry soil has the limited manganese.
Iron is essential for energy transfer, nitrogen reduction, and fixation. Iron along with sulfur acts as a catalyst in the formation of other reactions. Yellow leaves are the symptom of Iron deficiency.
Copper is essential for proper photosynthesis, grain production and to the strengthening of a cell wall. Stunted growth, yellow leaves are the symptoms of copper deficiency. There will not be enough copper in many soils.
Molybdenum is responsible for pollen formation. It is also responsible for nitrogen fixation. Reduced fruit or grain growth are the symptoms of Molybdenum deficiency. Sandy soils in the humid region are the places where zinc deficiencies are found.
Chlorine is the nutrient which helps in osmosis and ionic balance. It also plays a key role in the process of photosynthesis. Decreased resistance, reduced plant growth are the symptoms of chlorine deficiency.
Common micronutrient deficiencies found in humans are:
|Goitre, mental retardation||Iodine deficiency|
|Rickets, bone loss, muscle weakness||Vitamin D deficiency|
|Megaloblastic anaemia, impaired brain function||Vitamin B12 deficiency|
|Impaired vision, blindness||Vitamin A deficiency|
|Muscle cramps, fatigue||Magnesium deficiency|
Also Read: Role of micronutrients and macronutrients
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