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Julius Kühn-Institut (JKI)
Federal Research Centre
for Cultivated Plants

Prof. Dr. Jörg Michael Greef and
Prof. Dr. Dr. Ewald Schnug

Bundesallee 58
38116 Braunschweig, Germany

Office (Soil Science)
Ms Sabine Wichmann and
Ms Angelika Kunde
Tel: +49(0)531 596-2102/-2104/-2105
Fax: +49(0)531 596-2199
pb@  julius-kuehn.  de

Office (Crop Science)
Ms Sigrid Ehlers and
Ms Angelika Dölle
Tel: +49(0)531 596-2302/-2303
Fax: +49(0)531 596-2399
pb@  julius-kuehn.  de

Institute booklet

Plant nutrition

Plant nutrition is the study of the plant's supply with macro- (N, P, S, K, Ca, Mg) and micronutrients (Cl, Fe, Cu, Zn, Mn, Mo, B). It includes methods to determine the nutrient supply and to measure the actual nutrient status of crops. The effects of different nutrient elements on yield and quality parameters and on plant resistance to biotic and abiotic stress are also a subject of research.

Agricultural crops take up the majority of required nutrients via the root system from the soil. Therefore, fertilization, but also the availability of nutrient elements and their bonding forms in soil are important topics in plant nutrition.

Plants need all the essential macro and micro nutrients in a specific proportion. Already in 1828, the so-called “law of the minimum” was published by Carl Sprengel. It indicates that the nutrient element, which is the most scare in relation to the plant needs, decides on the plant's growth and thus on the yield. In the Institute numerous issues on plant nutrition are investigated by means of field and pot experiments.

Sometimes, the nutrient elements which are particularly in the focus of research can change because of sociopolitical reasons. Thus, since the 1990s, the nutrient element sulfur (S) is an important issue at the Institute. In the late eighties, the effective industrial flue gas desulfurization led to a substantial decrease in the S-supply of crops. Previously, sulfur was added in sufficient quantities into agricultural land as industrial pollution by the rain. In the late nineties, however, S deficiency was observed in almost all agricultural crops due to the effective flue gas desulfurization. Since then, topics such as the influence of sulfur on crop yields and quality of agricultural products as well as plant health are investigated at the Institute.

The nutrient element phosphorus (P) presently became more important due to the limited rock phosphate reserves in the world. Thus, the ecological usage of the P reserves and a reasonable P-recycling are current subjects of research.

Scientists working in this field