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What are Micronutrients?

We consume food on a daily basis to keep up our survival. From the food we intake, we get all the necessary items called nutrients. The nutrients are classified into macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients especially help us with the sources of energy and heal our bodily wear and tear, and making of some hormones. Fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are macronutrients. Micronutrients, whereas, are important in other bodily repair and maintenance functions. There are two broad types of micronutrients viz vitamins and dietary minerals. Some micronutrients examples are vitamins A, B, C, D, etc. and minerals like iodine and iron that are required by our body on a daily basis. The deficiency of macronutrients can make our body come to a halt immediately. However, the deficiency of micronutrients is a slow and gradual process. 

Micronutrients – An Overview

Micronutrients are required in less quantity in our bodies than macronutrients. This is how the differentiation between micromineral and macromineral is made. Where the macronutrients form an integral part of the metabolism; most micronutrients aid metabolism. Some micronutrients help in other important bodily functions like transmission of information between the nervous system and other parts of the body. All the different animal and plant sources for food have different contents of micronutrients, in different proportions. Therefore, in order to avoid deficiency of any form of micronutrients, we must include a wide variety of foods in our daily diet. On the other hand, too much of intake, as well, can lead to adverse effects in our body. 

Further Categorisation of Micronutrients

Micronutrients are classified into vitamins and microminerals. Deficiency or excess of any kind of micronutrient can make the bodily function come to a halt, and it may lead to a total dysfunction of the body. However, some types of vitamins are water-soluble; we can not have them more than the required quantity as they can be excreted from the body through urine. Vitamins C, B1, B3, B6, and B12 are the four water-soluble vitamins that do not cause hypervitaminosis in the body. 

Vitamin D is synthesized in our body in the presence of sunlight; therefore, although we do not depend heavily on an external source for this vitamin, we need to meet the necessary condition to fulfill the requirement of this micronutrient. 

Nevertheless, we can include some types of food like cod liver oil in our diet to meet its requirement. Vitamin K is another vitamin that is produced or synthesized in the body. Water-soluble vitamins cannot cause hypervitaminosis; the other category is fat-soluble vitamins. 

Fat-soluble vitamins do not get excreted from the body and are stored in fatty tissues and liver for future use. Microminerals are the category of micronutrients that support the essential functions of the body. Thus, minerals like iron, manganese, zinc, copper, fluorine, iodine, cobalt are required in our body in smaller quantities, but they help us with essential functions. 

Micronutrients in Plants

Just like any other lifeform, plants too need micronutrients. If they do not get them in sufficient quantities, then they too languish under vitamins’ and minerals’ deficiency. In plants, there are seven vital micronutrients that help them in proper growth. Unlike animals, micronutrients in plants only consist of minerals and not vitamins. 

Plants are the producers of vitamins from which all the animals from the food chain derive their supply of vitamins. Minerals like boron, sulfur, copper, calcium, iron, manganese, and zinc are the most essential micronutrients required by plants. The deficiency of micronutrients in plants can lead to stunted growth, improper development, etc. 

Boron- It helps in the formation and strengthening of the cell walls. It helps in cell division, germination of pollen, flowering, and fruiting. Lack of boron can lead to reduced production of grains and seeds. 

Zinc- It helps in photosynthesis for the production of food for plants. It helps in the production of energy and growth regulation. Its deficiency can lead to reduced maturity and small leaves. 

Manganese- It is essential for the metabolism of nitrogen. Due to its deficiency, the plant shows slow maturity and shedding of leaves. 

Iron- It is important in nitrogen reduction and fixation, and transfer of energy. Iron and sulfur work as a catalyst in other chemical reactions in plants. The yellowing of the leaves may be a result of the deficiency of iron. 

Copper- It helps in strengthening of cell walls, photosynthesis, and production of seeds and grains. Slowed growth and yellow leaves are signs of the deficiency of copper. 

Calcium- It helps in the regulation of cell walls construction. The lack of it will turn the leave dark green with the tips being dry. 

(Image to be added soon)

This figure shows boron deficiency in alfalfa

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Do Plants Need Vitamins?

Plants do not have any requirements for vitamins like animals. Their only requirement of micronutrients is minerals like boron, zinc, manganese, sulfur, iron, copper, and calcium. These minerals help in the necessary activities of the plants like cell division, cell wall strengthening, reproduction, flowering, fruiting, etc. Plants produce vitamins for secondary functions like making the fruit more nutritious; this helps the plant in acquiring an important place in the food chain and assure survival for itself.

2. What Are The Common Forms Of Micronutrient Deficiency In Humans?

Micronutrients are an important form of our daily consumption; their deficiency can lead to many types of adverse effects in the body. Anemia is caused by iron deficiency. Similarly, goitre and mental retardation are caused by a lack of iodine. Vitamin D hypovitaminosis lead to loss of bone density and rickets. Lacking B complex vitamins can lead to muscle weakness. Deficiency of calcium can cause osteoporosis. Lack of vitamin A can cause night blindness. And magnesium deficiency is known to cause muscles’ cramp and fatigue.