To create a beautiful garden, or to produce food crops on a large scale, we need to understand how plants grow.
Without plants to produce oxygen and provide our food, we wouldn't be alive.
So understanding what keeps them healthy is vital.
The essential ingredients for growth are sunlight and air, captured by the leaves, and water and minerals, absorbed by the roots.
Minerals are present in small amounts in soil, and roots can seek out nutrient rich areas.
But if they can't absorb enough, it affects the plant's health.
The problems are particularly bad if the plant lacks one of four key minerals.
Nitrates are used for making amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. These are essential for every cell in the plant.
So nitrate deficiency stunts plant growth, and causes older leaves to turn yellow.
Phosphates are needed to make the DNA and membranes of new cells.
If levels are low, root growth is reduced and younger leaves discoloured.
Poor root growth
Potassium is used for both photosynthesis and respiration.
Without enough potassium, flowers and fruits are affected, and leaves discolour with dead spots.
Poor flower & fruit growth
And magnesium is essential for building chlorophyll – it's what makes leaves green.
So soil low in magnesium turns leaves yellow.
To improve soils for agriculture, farmers add fertilisers – artificial chemicals, or organic material like manure – that are rich in these minerals.
So farming methods, like rotating crops, can be adapted to help too.
Understanding the needs of plants plays an important part in getting food to your plate.
It's the basis for the crop production that feeds us all.