Nutrients for Abiotic Stress Mitigation in Agriculture


As an Agriculture Microbiologist, most of my work is on edaphic stress management. Most farmers specifically in developing countries blindly follow the recommendations of fertilizer sellers or simply apply fertilizers in the field without any study about crop requirement of fertilizer and type of Nutrient deficiency in the soil. I always recommend farmers for soil testing before the application of fertilizers. Nutrient management plays a vital role in mitigating abiotic stresses in plants, it’s also important for controlling several diseases in plants. Proper nutrient management practices can decrease the effects of abiotic stresses. In this blog, we see how nutrient management improves crop productivity tolerance to abiotic stresses.

Improved stress tolerance: Appropriate nutrient management ensures that plants receive an optimum supply of essential nutrients. Stable nutrition enriches plants’ overall health and vigor, making them better equipped to withstand abiotic stresses. Providing adequate potassium benefits plants to regulate water uptake and sustain turgor pressure during drought conditions, thereby reducing water stress and proper application of Potassium (Involved in protein synthesis) is essential for repairing and maintaining cellular structures damaged by abiotic stress. One of the factors crops susceptible to Abiotic stress is negligence in Micronutrient application. Micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, copper, manganese, boron, and molybdenum, are required in smaller quantities but are essential for hormone synthesis, activation, and function. These micronutrients act as cofactors for enzymes involved in hormone biosynthesis and play a role in hormone transport and signaling. Deficiencies in micronutrients can disrupt hormone balance and affect plant growth and development. Appropriate application micronutrient application enhances crop stress tolerance.

             Effective Approaches to Abiotic Stress Management in Agriculture

Enhanced nutrient uptake: Abiotic stresses frequently disturb plants' availability and uptake of nutrients. Nutrient management strategies, such as applying organic matter, using fertilizers with slow-release characteristics, or adopting precision agriculture techniques, can enhance nutrient uptake efficiency. Fertilizers with slow-release characteristics are designed to provide a gradual and controlled release of nutrients to plants over an extended period of time (urea-formaldehyde (UF), methylene urea, and sulfur-coated urea (SCU), Nutrient-Enriched Zeolite Fertilizers, Polymer-Coated Fertilizers). This ensures that plants can access and utilize essential nutrients even under stressful conditions.

Regulation of plant physiology: Nutrients play a critical role in regulating various physiological processes in plants. For instance, adequate levels of nutrients like calcium and boron help maintain the structural integrity of cell walls, reducing the negative impacts of water stress. Nutrient management practices can optimize the nutrient balance to support essential physiological functions and minimize the negative effects of abiotic stresses. Nitrogen plays a vital role in photosynthesis, protein synthesis, enzyme activity, and overall plant growth and development. Phosphorus is a critical nutrient that is involved in energy transfer and storage in plants. Boron essential synthesis of cell wall components and the transport of sugars and other nutrients within the plant. Molybdenum is involved in nitrogen metabolism and the conversion of nitrate to ammonium within plants. Calcium is a key nutrient that plays a crucial role in cell signaling and communication. Deficiency of nutrients affects the plant’s physiological regulation and can’t survive in the stress condition.

Scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS): Abiotic stresses can lead to the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) specifically in salinity stress, causing oxidative damage to plant cells. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are highly reactive molecules that include superoxide radicals (O2^-), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and hydroxyl radicals (OH^-).  Nutrient management, particularly through the provision of antioxidants such as vitamins, minerals, and secondary metabolites like auxins, helps in strengthening the antioxidant defense system of plants. This enables plants to scavenge and neutralize ROS, reducing oxidative stress and minimizing damage. Ascorbic acid directly neutralizes ROS, acting as an antioxidant in plants. Tocopherol helps protect cell membranes from oxidative damage caused by ROS. Essential minerals, including iron (Fe), manganese (Mn), copper (Cu), and zinc (Zn), are integral to the structure and function of antioxidant enzymes involved in ROS scavenging. They act as cofactors for antioxidant enzymes like SOD, CAT, and peroxidases, enabling their efficient activity.

Root system development: A well-developed and healthy root system is crucial for plants to withstand abiotic stresses. Nutrient management practices that promote root growth and development, such as providing adequate phosphorus and micronutrients, can enhance the root's ability to explore the soil for water and nutrients, improving plant resilience to abiotic stresses. Iron is essential for root development as it plays a vital role in the synthesis of chlorophyll and various enzymes involved in plant growth processes. It is necessary for the production of energy, root cell division, and the formation of new cells in the root tips. Copper is necessary for root development and is involved in several enzymatic processes, including lignin synthesis and cell wall formation. Manganese contributes to root elongation, cell division, and the synthesis of proteins and enzymes required for root growth.

Hormonal regulation: Nutrients influence the synthesis, transport, and signaling of plant hormones, which play a vital role in stress responses. Nutrient management practices that optimize hormone balance, such as supplying nitrogen for the synthesis of stress-responsive hormones like abscisic acid (ABA), can help plants cope with abiotic stresses more effectively. The interactions between nutrients and hormone regulation are complex and can vary depending on the specific plant species, developmental stage, and environmental conditions. The application of Magnesium is a vital component of chlorophyll, Calcium plays a crucial role in hormone signaling, and Iron is a cofactor for many enzymes involved in hormone biosynthesis and metabolism, Zinc is involved in the production and transport of auxin, a key growth-promoting hormone, Molybdenum is required for the activity of enzymes involved in the synthesis and breakdown of plant hormones, including cytokinins and abscisic acid. Imbalances or deficiencies in nutrients can disrupt hormone synthesis, signaling, and response pathways, leading to growth abnormalities, reduced yields, and increased susceptibility to stress.

In conclusion, Nutrient management is a key strategy for mitigating the negative impacts of abiotic stresses on plant growth and productivity. By optimizing nutrient availability, uptake efficiency, physiological processes, antioxidant defense, root development, and hormonal regulation, plants can better withstand and adapt to challenging environmental conditions. Proper nutrient management not only enhances stress tolerance in the crop, it also decreases the cost of cultivation. Nutrient management in agriculture is a vast topic it’s difficult to cover in a single blog. In the upcoming, I will explain the nutrient role in plant stress tolerance in detail.



Bitla UM, Sorty AM, Meena KK, and Singh NP (2017). Rhizosphere signaling cascades: fundamentals and determinants In: Singh DP, Singh HB and Prabha R, (Eds.), Plant-Microbe Interactions in Agro-Ecological Perspectives Vol.-I. Springer Nature Singapore

Plant Nutrition: An Effective Way to Alleviate Abiotic Stress in Agricultural Crops doi: 10.3390/ijms23158519


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