Definition of "Plant Nutrition" as a Scientific Discipline


Plant nutrition is the study of the functions and dynamics of nutrients in plants, soils and ecosystems as well as of plant production processes with the goal 

  • to improve the growth of plants
  • to increase the quality of harvest products
  • to improve soil fertility
  • to promote the recycling of nutrients
  • to reduce the cost of resources
  • to minimize fertilization-related environmental impacts


To achieve these goals, plant nutrition is divided into two areas with complementary topics:

1. Nutritional Crop Physiology 

  • Nutrient acquisition, uptake, transport and allocation in plants
  • Assimilation of plant nutrients and source -sink relations
  • Physiological functions of plant nutrients
  • Molecular biology and biochemistry of plant nutrition
  • Nutritional disorders
  • Nutrient efficiency
  • Ecophysiology (stress tolerance)


2. Nutrient cycling and fertilization 

  • Nutrient turnover in soils and growth media
  • Soil fertility
  • Rhizosphere (root-soil interactions)
  • Symbioses and microbial associations with plants
  • Assessment of fertilizer requirements
  • Mineral and organic fertilizers
  • Fertilization technology
  • Nutrient balances at different scales
  • Transfers of pollutants from soils soil to plants


Plant nutrition is mainly connected to faculties and research institutions in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and natural sciences. Plant nutrition definitely represents a core discipline in ​​Crop Sciences. Plant nutrition is strongly interrelated and cooperating with other disciplines in Crop Sciences (e.g. crop production, plant breeding, phytomedicine), Agricultural and Food Sciences (e.g. soil science, agricultural engineering, animal nutrition, human nutrition), botany (e.g. plant physiology, taxonomy, morphology ) and fundamental life sciences (e.g. biochemistry , molecular biology, bioinformatics).

This definition is presented in a concise form in the term sheet of the DPG (in German only).

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