Physiological functions of mineral macronutrients

Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2009 Jun;12(3):250-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2009.04.003. Epub 2009 May 25.


Plants require calcium, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and sulfur in relatively large amounts (>0.1% of dry mass) and each of these so-called macronutrients is essential for a plant to complete its life cycle. Normally, these minerals are taken up by plant roots from the soil solution in ionic form with the metals Ca(2+), Mg(2+) and K(+) present as free cations, P and S as their oxyanions phosphate (PO(4)(3-)) and sulfate (SO(4)(2-)) and N as anionic nitrate (NO(3)(-)) or cation ammonium (NH(4)(+)). Recently, important progress has been made in identifying transport and regulatory mechanisms for macronutrients and the mechanisms of uptake and distribution. These and the main physiological roles of each nutrient will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Magnesium / metabolism
  • Minerals / metabolism*
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Potassium / metabolism
  • Sulfur / metabolism


  • Minerals
  • Phosphorus
  • Sulfur
  • Magnesium
  • Nitrogen
  • Potassium
  • Calcium