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The Role of Zinc in Plant Growth and Fertilizers

Explore zinc's pivotal role in plant growth and how zinc-based fertilizers can lead to healthier, more bountiful plants.

Table of Contents

If you are a farmer or a gardener, you are most likely looking for ways to keep your plants green. There are various micronutrients and nutrients to achieve such results. Zinc is one of the micronutrients vital for plant growth, and it is widely present in the soil. However, for better results, you can supply it through fertilizers.

Despite its small requirement, zinc is indispensable for various physiological processes in plants. To know all the nitty gritty of why zinc is important, let’s try to understand its role in plant growth. 

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a micronutrient responsible for maintaining a healthy root system. It activates enzymes that are responsible for synthesizing nucleic acids (DNA & RNA). These are then responsible for energy production in the plant and to maintain overall metabolism.   

Role of Zinc in Plant Growth

plants deficient in zinc

Zinc plays an important role in many fundamental plant functions responsible for adequate growth. It majorly helps with internal leaf elongation and growth hormone production. 

Without zinc, you are very likely to see:

  • Suppressed growth
  • Brown spots on some leaves
  • Twisted leaves

Although soil is rich in zinc, some factors can lead to zinc depletion, and they are:

  • Less organic matter in the soil
  • Higher pH levels of the soil
  • High-water table 
  • Higher phosphorus levels

Zinc-abundant soil can stimulate plant growth in the following ways:

Enzyme Activation

Plants require zinc in smaller amounts than other macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It aids in the activation of various enzymes involved in photosynthesis, respiration, and other processes. These enzymes, in turn, are in charge of energy production and general plant growth.

Hormone Regulation

Zinc is also responsible for regulating plant hormones, such as auxins, that help in root development and branching. If you wish to maintain a healthy root system, you need to have a perfect hormonal balance. 

Nutrient Uptake

If you do not have sufficient zinc, your plant might struggle to absorb nutrients like iron and manganese. Now, this can affect the overall growth, and that is why zinc is important because it can help the plant to uptake other essential nutrients.

Pollination & Seed Formation

Zinc helps in the development of flowers, pollens, and seeds in the plants. Simply put, it is good for the reproductive phase of the plant’s life cycle as it ensures that there is successful pollination. 

Stress Tolerance


For a plant to withstand various environmental stresses, zinc is important. It can help the plant to fight through drought, high salinity, and extreme temperatures. Zinc also assists the plant in synthesizing antioxidants to protect plant cells from stress damage. 

How to identify Zinc Deficiency in Plants

Although zinc is a micronutrient, its deficiency can have a huge impact on plants. Here is how you can identify the deficiency. 

  • Usually, the deficiency of zinc can be seen in a new leaf. The classic symptom of zinc deficiency is the formation of interveinal chlorosis. What happens is that the tissues between the veins turn yellow. 
  • You may also observe necrotic spots appear on the margins of the leaf. 
  • Zinc deficiency causes shorter and distorted new leaves. The internodes of the leaf will be shorter, resulting in fewer flowers and branches. 
  • The deficiency can also cause delayed flowering in fruit-bearing plants. This can directly cause a decrease in the number of fruits and seed production.
  • Look closely, you will see that it becomes challenging for the plant to absorb water and nutrients from the soil if there is an underdeveloped root system because of zinc deficiency.

Overall, zinc deficiency can make plants vulnerable and susceptible to various diseases and pest attacks. 

Methods of Applying Zinc to the Plants

Here are some of the most common methods used to apply zinc to plants:

Soil Application

You can directly add the zinc fertilizer to the soil during the plantation phase. Zinc sulfate is a common form of zinc fertilizer for this type of application. You can either add it in as granules or in the soluble form. Whatever you decide, you must spread it evenly over the soil surface. Other than that, you can also add zinc oxide, zinc chelates, zinc organic fertilizers, etc.  

Foliar Application

There are foliar sprays of zinc fertilizers that you can directly apply to the plant’s leaves. Now, this method is useful when your plants are facing the consequences of severe zinc deficiency. Zinc chelates or soluble zinc sulfate are used in foliar sprays for the leaves to absorb it through their surface and then transport it to other parts. 

For better absorption, foliar is done early in the morning or late in the evening when the stomata are open. Do not use this method during hot or sunny conditions because that can lead to leaf burn.

Seed Treatment

You can use this method to ensure young seedlings receive an adequate supply of zinc right from the beginning. Coat the seeds with a zinc-containing product and establish a strong root system beforehand.

Drip Irrigation

little sapling

If you have a big farm, then the drip irrigation method is the most suitable for you. With this method, you can have control over the amount of zinc delivered to the root zone of the plants. However, it is important to make sure that zinc is compatible with your irrigation system. 

After applying zinc to the plant root zone, you are responsible for regular monitoring and making adjustments to the zinc application rate. This can help you prevent over- or under-application.

FAQs Related to Zinc Fertilizer

What plants like zinc?

Zinc is a recommended micronutrient in fertilizer programs for production of corn, sweet corn, and edible beans. Several research projects have focused on the use of this nutrient, and much of the following information is based on the results of that research.

Zinc – an important plant regulator, it’s essential in root and plant growth. Boron – regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates in plants. It’s critical for new growth and assists in pollination, fertilization and more. Copper – activates enzymes in plants.
Due to its acid-forming properties and abundant sulphur, zinc sulphate is the best solution for sodic soil. To prevent initial loss, zinc fertilizer should be administered early. Foliar treatment throughout boot leaf to blooming is desired to obtain zinc-rich grain or seed.

Final Words!

Zinc is a micronutrient found in water-soluble fertilizers. It plays a big role in plant growth, and that is why it is important to identify its deficiency in the starting days of the plantation. It is important to note that it is involved in various physiological processes, from hormone regulation to nutrient uptake. That is why you have to pay close attention to the symptoms of zinc deficiency to ensure optimal plant health. Now, this will benefit you in agricultural practices because proper zinc nutrient management is crucial for maximum crop yield. 

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