Why Do Plants Need Iron?

Why do plants need iron, and how do I know if my plants need more of it? Let’s take a few minutes to cover this essential plant nutrient.

Iron (Fe) is an essential plant nutrient. Plants need iron to grow and remain healthy, but what exactly does this powerhouse element do inside a plant? Let’s take a few minutes to answer the question, “Why do plants need iron?”

What Is Iron?

First and foremost, what is iron? Iron is a mineral — an element found in the crust of the Earth. And in our modern world, it is used to build things! Besides this, the human body uses and very much needs iron. People are considered anemic when when they are deficient in iron. But when a plant is deficient in iron, we use a different term. It’s known as chlorosis.

Iron is usually present in the soil. However, it is not always available to plants because of the pH level in the soil. Iron becomes bound-up and is not absorbable when the soil’s pH is too high (alkaline), or too low (acidic). Likewise, the iron becomes unbound and finally absorbable when the soil pH is brough to neutral (7 on the pH scale). In addition, microorganisms live in the soil and further break the iron down for the most optimum plant absorption. But what about plants? How do plants use iron?

Why Is Iron Important for Plants?

Just as iron is vital to the human body, iron is also vital to plants. Without iron, plants would not be able to produce chlorophyll, which gives plants oxygen and its healthy green color. Without iron, the plant can go into a state of chlorosis (lack of chlorophyll, plant is less green), where the leaves will have a sickly yellow color. But iron goes far beyond chlorophyll. Similar to other essential plant nutrients, iron plays multiple roles within a plant. Here are a few more reasons plants need iron:

  • Iron maintains chloroplasts.
  • Iron supports photosynthesis.
  • Iron supports respiration or “breathing”.
  • Iron is essential for enzyme functions.
  • Iron aids in nitrogen-fixing.
  • Iron helps move oxygen through the plant’s system.

How Do I Know if My Plants Need More Iron?

Are you wondering how to know if your plants need more iron? There are a couple of ways to find the answer.

The first way is to look closely at the plant itself. The physical appearance of a plant can often help you determine what nutrients are missing. As we mentioned above, your plants will develop chlorosis when it is deficient in iron. But as we’ve discussed before this can also be a sign of other deficiencies, like that of sulfur or nitrogen. This means you need to exercise caution when you’re trying to determine what is actually causing the leaves to yellow. You can accomplish this by figuring out where the yellowing starts.

The second way to check for an iron deficiency is to perform a soil test. However, soil tests can be tricky, and they aren’t always accurate.  While a soil test is designed to help you determine what your soil might be lacking, it doesn’t test all your soil. In other words, the results for one small section of your soil may not be accurate for the rest of your soil. If you add amendments to your soil based on one test result from one section, you could end up damaging the other sections of your soil.

Finally, soil tests are designed to tell you what nutrients are in the soil. But they do not tell you which nutrients are in a plant-soluble form. It would be something like the difference between cows and hamburgers. We eat hamburgers, not cows! This same concept holds true with the nutrients in your soil. Many can be in a form that plants simply can’t absorb. Needless to say, soil tests don’t always give us the information we need.

What if My Plant Is Not Iron-Deficient But Still Looks Bad?

Keep in mind that iron is only one of the 16 essential plant nutrients, and your plant needs all 16 nutrients to remain healthy. When you have a plant that is not lacking iron but still looks to be in bad shape, then your plant might be deficient in a different nutrient. If you want to learn more about these nutrients, read through the following articles:

If you’re getting antsy and want to get out in your garden to practice, we recommend using a soil treatment like GardenMAX or TurfMAX. Not only do these soil treatments from Green As It Gets™ contain all 16 essential plant nutrients, but they also have a ton of other great benefits. For example, they can correct pH imbalances, add beneficial microbes to the soil, and they contain a slow-release fertilizer. Plus they are loaded with organic ingredients and super easy to use! All you do is apply it on top of your soil and water it in.

Final Thoughts

Iron is essential for plants, so if you think your plant is missing this nutrient you need to act fast. Unfortunately, testing for nutrient deficiencies in plants isn’t the clearest thing to do. But luckily, there’s another way to overcome this hurdle.

With a soil treatment from Green As It Gets, you can easily transform your soil into a place where plants love to grow. These soil treatments work fast to correct pH imbalances and supply your soil with any missing nutrients. It’s intelligent, advanced, and ready to go to work for your soil.

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