As a precondition for growth, health and the production of nutritious food, plants require essential nutrients (macro and micronutrients) in sufficient quantities.
Seventeen elements have been shown to be essential for plants: carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), sulphur (S), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B), molybdenum (Mo), chlorine (Cl), nickel (Ni). Furthermore, additional elements may be essential to a few plant species, e.g. sodium (Na) and cobalt (Co).
Carbon, H and O are obtained from the atmosphere and water, and are not considered mineral elements. The remaining essential elements can be divided into three groups: primary macronutrients (N, P and K), secondary macronutrients (S, Mg and Ca) and micronutrients (Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B, Mo, Cl and Ni) based on average concentrations in plants. If a single essential plant nutrient is available in insufficient quantity, it affects plant growth and thus the yield.