The ABC of Plant Nutrition. Rather, the NPK of plant nutrition.

If you ever tried researching on plant nutrition, chances are high that you would have come across the term NPK more than once. NPK is to plant nutrition, what ABC is to the alphabet. No plant can survive without NPK and none of them can synthesize it internally. Let us understand what NPK stands for.

NPK represents the three vital macronutrients that every plant needs in order to grow and function efficiently. These three macronutrients are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

Nitrogen aids in the process of photosynthesis. A lack of nitrogen will lead to chlorosis (discoloring of leaves) and stunted growth.  An adequate amount of nitrogen promotes healthy leaf growth and results in imparting a bright green color to the leaves.

Phosphorus is necessary for energy transfer and consumption in various parts of plants. Phosphorus helps in promoting root growth, blooming, seed production and improving crop yield.

Potassium can be considered equivalent to a CPU (Central Processing Unit) of a plant. It regulates most of the vital functions within a plant including internal moisture, water balance, and low-light photosynthesis.  Potassium has a high impact on the end-quality of the fruit including its shape, size, color, and taste.

All plants need the three primary macronutrients represented by the alphabets NPK. Yet, depending upon the plant variety and growth stage, different plants may need a different proportion of individual nutrient at any given point in time.  Thus, in order to get the maximum yield out of your plants, it is vital to understand the correct requirements of NPK  that will give optimal results for your particular case.

Next Tuesday, we will take a closer look at NPK requirements for different plant varieties and growth stages.

Happy Farming!

Gaurav is an entrepreneur whose first Start-up was focused on providing services to patients suffering from Chronic Diseases. While researching about the causes of lifestyle diseases and the ways to reduce their incidence, he chanced upon the idea of growing healthy and nutritious food using advanced farming techniques.

He founded CityGreens with a mission to enable City Dwellers to access Safe, Healthy and Fresh food.

4 thoughts on “The ABC of Plant Nutrition. Rather, the NPK of plant nutrition.


    I cultivated watermelon a week ago in soil and in cocopeat media how and when should I give the primery, secondary,& micronutrient.Please guide me by using CG Nutrient NPK.

    • admin says:

      You should start external nutrients a week after seedling has emerged.

      NPK is a complete blend having both primary and secondary macronutrients, as well as necessary micro nutrients.

      Use following schedule if using NPK:

      1. Add, 1 ml of N, K and P to a liter of water. Use 200 ml of this solution once a week (say every Saturday) to feed the sapling till it’s 6-8 inches.
      2. Increase to 2 ml of N, K and P till 12-14 inches.
      3. Increase to 3 ml of N, K and P each once the vein has grown to couple of feet’s.
      4. From now on till the flower sets in, use 6 ml of N and 3 each of K and P
      5. Once flowering starts, reduce N back to 3 ml, increase P to 6 ml, Increase K to 4 ml. Use this schedule till harvesting.

      Do note:

      Measures given are for preparing 1 liter of solution. However, only 200 ml of this solution is to be added per week.

      Let us know how it goes and do share some pictures.
      All the best!

  • Amit kumar. says:

    How to calculate different npk for diff crop and.. And what are the optimum npk level for leafy crop.. And do plant absorb every nutrient in a week even if ph is at its optimum level For that perticular crop.. And how safe is the hydroponics is.. Interms of the amount of chemical use. Iam sorry sir but iam new to hydroponics and really want to understand it..

    • 1. The amount of Macronutrients requirement varies not only by crop type but also based on multiple other factors like external environment, temperature, the method of delivery etc. If you are looking to grow only a particular crop on large scale, you should seek expert help (from scientific journals or agri-scientists or published literature) and do some experimentation to determine the optimal mix that works for your specific case.
      2. If you intend to grow a mix of leafy crops, go for higher levels of Nitrogen and lower levels of Phosphorus. The amount of Nitrogen should be approx 2x to 3x the amount of Phosphorus.
      3. Did not understand the query.
      4. Hydroponics is safe (but costly and involves more effort) and is being adopted in most of the countries now. The thing one should worry about is not chemicals but harmful chemicals. Even water is a chemical and our bodies are build up of chemicals. Also, medicines, nutraceuticals, health food like Horlics and Bournvita are all chemicals but safe when taken in right quantity.
      The question you must be contemplating is if to use an organic or inorganic source of nutrients for your plants. That is more a question of individual preference. Both of these are safe. Also, nowadays, even for hydroponics you can get organic nutrient blends. So the decision point one should be concerned about would be the technique of farming and not the source of nutrients.

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