The Role of Plant Nutrition in Plant Resistance

Build-up plants’ pest and disease resistance through good nutrition

Doctors often prescribe medicine for the treatment of illnesses and the prevention of repeat occurrences. But, if the medicine sits in the bottle, patients will have a hard time getting better. Mineral imbalances have the same effect in plants. When they are missing, plants become weaker and have a harder time fighting off disease.

Recent advances in breeding have linked genetics to the success of disease-resistant varieties, while the impact of proper nutrition on disease control is often overlooked. The fact is, even the best disease-resistant varieties cannot reach their full potential if they are not healthy. Well-nourished plants with optimal growing environments are better able to withstand the constant assault of pests and diseases.

Plants seem helpless against the onslaught of pathogens that come their way, but they are well-equipped with natural immune systems. They are like small fortresses where defense starts at the outer walls; if the walls are breached, additional defenses are employed from the inside. Thick cell walls, waxy coatings and bark are types of pre-formed mechanical barriers designed to block the entrance of viruses. Calcium and boron are both necessary for the healthy development of plant cell walls and membranes. Calcium also inhibits the production of pathogenic enzymes that dissolve plant tissues. Boron plays a role in lignin production. Lignin is a plant polymer that is a major component in wood. Zinc and silicon help increase the effectiveness of mechanical barriers, making it difficult for sucking insects to penetrate the outer walls; this in turn minimizes the spread of disease. Copper is an important catalyst for the chemical reactions that take place within plant cells and it can neutralize the damaging effects of oxygen radicals and hydrogen peroxide to healthy plant tissue.

When mechanical barriers are breached, plants employ inducible barriers by releasing defensive chemicals and pathogenesis-related proteins (PR proteins). They even have the ability to inoculate themselves against further infections by a process known as systemic acquired resistance (SAR). Potassium, boron and manganese are all necessary for the production of defensive chemicals and proteins. Silicon influences when the compounds are released. Once the threat of disease is over, copper and manganese help with plant detoxification. The micronutrient chlorine can also help plants resist fungal infections.

Sometimes, too much or too little of a nutrient can either suppress pathogens or encourage them. Nitrogen, a macronutrient necessary for strong plant growth, is a good example. In moderate amounts it can inhibit the growth of pathogens; in excessive amounts it opens the door for them. The same is true for copper.

Proper nutrition ensures that plants have strong immune systems that are ready to respond aggressively to disease in times of need. KeyPlex products stimulate plant’s resistance mechanisms and aid in minimizing and eradicating the effects of environmental stresses. KeyPlex 350 contains alpha-keto acids, which facilitate the utilization of micronutrients and increases resistance to environmental stresses. Growers now have the option of using a safe and effective alternative that is good for the environment.