Nature uses relatively few minerals to construct a plant—a combination of four (4) atmospheric gases comprises 97.5 percent of all dry plant matter weight. They are carbon (C) 45 percent, oxygen (O) 45 percent, hydrogen (H) six percent and nitrogen (N) at 1.5 percent.
The other five solid elements of phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and magnesium (Mg) make up another two percent of dry plant matter weight. Just nine (9) elements make up 99.5 percent of dry plant matter weight. These are the structural building blocks of the plant kingdom—roots, trunks, stems, branches, leaves and eventually fruits, vegetables, grains, forages or produce. This is the target for most farmers. They equate structure with success. However, a plant is much more than just structure, and in order for those who consume the plant to receive the maximum benefits, the remaining elements must also come into play. The remaining 0.5% is composed of the micro and trace elements. These are the functional elements.
With only one-half of one percent (0.5%) remaining, the other minerals do not occupy a “volumetric” position of any substance in the plants overall weight. Yet their role is equally vital to that of structure/plant function. Trace elements, some 75 of them, are the key to activating the enzymatic operating systems within the plants genetic coding. Plants have a purpose. Their genetic blueprint not only tells them what to become, but how to do it. That blueprint is driven by that 0.5% made up of the trace elements.
As an example, let’s consider a tractor. Compare the physical tractor itself to the 99.5% dry matter weight in the plant. The metal, engine, tires, upholstery, etc. can easily weight 50,000 lbs. However, without any gas in the tank, that 50,000 lbs isn’t going to go anywhere or do any work! The trace elements (that 0.5% dry matter weight) are the fuel. The trace elements are the triggers that start the plant processes. In order for the plant to grow properly and perform all its designed functions, those trace elements need to be available and in the right form.
Enzymes run virtually every living system and physiological function in every single organism on this planet from single celled microorganisms to multi-trillion celled humans. Nothing lives or functions without enzymes and enzymes require activators to function properly and efficiently. Enzymes are biomolecules (any organic molecule that is produced by a living organism) that catalyze (speed up) chemical reactions up to thousands of times faster. Almost all enzymes are proteins. In enzymatic reactions, the elements or molecules are converted into different molecules and/or compounds. Enzymes often run in sequence, with different enzymes performing different parts of the conversion process. For example, enzymes can take elements such as C, H, O and form DNA structures or various carbohydrate structures. Other enzymes create proteins or any of the thousands of other plant compounds that constitute the nutritional makeup of the plant. Not only can enzymes combine elements to make new compounds, but they can also decompose existing compounds into simpler molecules and recombine components to meet the needs of the organism for which they function.
All life requires enzymatic support. Each enzyme (and there are thousands of them) requires a specific trace element to activate it. For example, Zn does not substitute for Ni nor does Cu substitute for Co or B, etc. In the absence of the trace element, the enzyme either does not function or functions at an extremely low level. If elements are missing and an enzyme in a conversion chain does not function, you end up with incomplete metabolites.
Incomplete metabolites act like a signal beacon, notifying all the insects and pathogens that there is food available. Insects and pathogens like incomplete metabolites, and that is why so many crops have trouble with insects. They are malnourished and their processes are incomplete. The farmers may not know it, but the insects certainly do!
Yield and Quality
So, with today’s standard fertility recommendations (the standard N, P, and K and maybe a few popular trace elements like Zn or B), your plants may be able to build basic structure, but that structure is missing a lot of power under the hood. They may even be able to produce a good yield, but that yield is significantly lacking in nutrition, not only the trace elements, but the secondary compounds built by those elements that provide the real benefits those plants are programmed to produce.
On the other hand, the presence of a full complement of trace elements produces complete metabolic processes. Plants are able to use the macro elements much more efficiently and effectively. The plants produce the full range of metabolites, both primary and secondary and the plants are much more capable of defending themselves against pathogens and insects. In fact, insects don’t like complete metabolites. They are generally indigestible and sometimes fatal for the insects, so they avoid them. So, if your plants have the nutrition they require to produce complete metabolites, not only can the secondary metabolites be used to repel insects and pathogens (stronger plant immune system), but the complete metabolites aren’t appetizing to them in the first place.
Plant Secondary Metabolites create the plant's survival tool kit. They are used to repel insects, repel grazers, protect against disease, communicate with other plants, and much more. To learn more about Plant Primary and Secondary Metabolites and all the amazing things they do for the plants and for animals and people who consume them, read the article "Plant Primary and Secondary Metabolites."
The presence of trace elements is crucial for the enzymes to efficiently convert the building block structural elements into plant components, both above and below ground. Even more importantly, trace elements assist the plant's genetic coding via the enzymatic system to produce the health sustaining, nutrient dense, quality enriching compounds that all higher life forms are designed to utilize.