What are Essential Plant Nutrients?
Plant nutrients are chemical elements such as carbon (C), oxygen (O), hydrogen (H), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and many others (there are 16 identified so far!) that are required for a plant to complete its life cycle and have normal growth, maintenance and reproduction functions.
Nutrients are categorized as either macronutrients or micronutrients. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are considered macronutrients because they are found in a plant’s dry matter in quantities that range from one tenth of a percent (phosphorus and sulfur) to more than 5% (nitrogen). Other nutrients – such as zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), boron (B) and a few others – are considered micronutrients. Micronutrients are typically found in much smaller concentrations of parts per million (ppm). Both categories of nutrients serve very specific functions in a plant.
Some Macronutrient Functions
Carbon is in almost every molecule of the plant, serving as the backbone onto which most other elements attach to produce all chemical structures needed to build a plant. Nitrogen is used by the plants mostly to form proteins, RNA and DNA (the genetic material of the plant), and ATP (adenosine triphosphate; the energy molecule), while phosphorus is also present in the DNA and ATP and many other molecules. Potassium is essential in the transport of sugars and starches throughout the plant; particularly from the leaves to fruits (like a tomato or an apple) or to storage structures such as tubers and roots (potatoes and carrots); and it participates in many other processes such as maintaining water balance. Magnesium is particularly essential to produce chlorophyll, the molecule responsible for photosynthesis and the reason why plants are green, and (like most other elements) also has many other functions that keep the plant alive and well.
Some Micronutrient Functions
The story with the micronutrients is no less complex; they participate in thousands of chemical compounds and reactions. Zinc, for example, is key in controlling pollen germination—it is essential for pollination and production of fruits. Manganese, copper, iron, nickel, and selenium participate in thousands of enzymes that control functions from the production of DNA, to respiration, photosynthesis, and much more.
Essential to All Life on Earth
All plants you see and interact with exist because of the nutrients that allowed them to grow. Nutrients are not only essential to plant life; we all rely on nutrients to survive. This is why the preservation and responsible use of nutrients are so important.
Without nutrients, there would be no life.
What does Steady State mean, anyway?
A steady state condition can be thought of as a balance between inputs and outputs. When a system is in steady state, all parts are working together to keep it stable over time. We envision a steady state for nutrients, one in which the nutrients we use are not wasted after use but, instead, recycled and reused again and again.
The first step toward achieving our vision of a steady state is to recover nutrients after they’ve been used. Skipping this step means losing nutrients to lakes, rivers, and oceans. Once we’ve lost them, they’re really tough to get back. Not to mention, they can cause a whole lot of damage to aquatic life.
The next step is to design fertilizers that provide just the right amount of nutrients to plants, reducing the potential for nutrient losses. Our recovered phosphorus is slowly soluble. In simple terms this means our plant nutrients become available to plants when the plants need it. We think that’s pretty cool (and we imagine the plants think so, too).
The final step is applying the right amount of nutrients to crops and plants. When over-fertilization occurs, we lose nutrients to things like erosion, runoff and leaching. Our fertilizer application recommendations are provided to help you give your plants only the nutrients they need, when they need them.
By recovering nutrients before they’re lost and promoting responsible fertilizing practices, we offset the need for introducing brand new fertilizers – often produced unsustainably – into the system. Using recycled nutrients helps us contribute to a steady state in nutrient management, minimizing the amount of single-use nutrients that enter and leave our global food system every year.
This Steady State vision is both aspirational and inspirational. Using it as our brand serves as a reminder to us that although there is a lot of work to be done on a global scale, we will always have room for creativity, innovation and collaboration in the pursuit of a more balanced food system.
What is Kickstarter, and how does it work?
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform with the goal of helping creators of unique, innovative, creative projects bring their work to life. Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has helped 172,805 creators successfully fund projects in areas varying from film and music to fashion and technology (statistic current as of 11/7/2019, from Kickstarter’s website). All projects start the same way: a person or group has an idea to create something that doesn’t currently exist, and they ask for help in bringing it into the world.
Creators set a funding goal and deadline for their project based on research they do beforehand to determine the amount of work and investment it will take to accomplish. Once they're ready to launch, they share their story through Kickstarter, offering rewards to folks who choose to pledge money to the cause. These folks who support projects (known on Kickstarter as backers) are only charged the money they pledged if the project successfully meets its funding goal. In return, creators promise to deliver the rewards chosen by each backer once they have successfully been produced.
Sometimes backers pledge money to a campaign without choosing to receive a reward, simply because they believe in what the creator has set out to do and want to see them succeed. At the end of the day, Kickstarter is all about sharing ideas and bringing something new into the world, hopefully leaving it for the better. That's what we love about Kickstarter, and that's why we're so excited to share our work in this way.
To view our project visit Upcycled Plant Food and Sustainable Grow Kits on Kickstarter.
Week One Update:
Last week, we invited guests of our Kickstarter Launch Party to plant a cucumber seed and enter into our Sprout Race. The planter of the first and second tallest sprouts three weeks into the race will each win a prize. We're offering the first place winner three different herb plants, which we've been caring for under one of our grow light house prototypes for the past month. Second place winner will receive a sample of our Steady State Houseplant Fertilizer.
We've been taking care of the seeds in our grow light house and watering them as needed. One week into the race, the sprouts are looking strong and healthy! Thank you for participating, everyone, and we'll share another update next week!
Week Two Update:
Two weeks into the race and we have some serious growth! When growing seedlings do not receive enough light, they look thin and spindly, growing too tall too quickly. These seedlings have been given just the right amount of light: they are not reaching for window light and are growing strong and upright. The race isn't through yet, but the front-runner for week 2 looks to be Eitan! Congratulations, Eitan!
You may notice some seeds have not germinated. This is not uncommon and can happen for a variety of reasons. In this instance, it is likely that the seeds were planted too deep or were simply not viable at the time of planting. We provide the perfect soil conditions and nutrients to allow for happy, healthy seedlings, but we know it's not guaranteed that every seed planted will successfully germinate. That's why we provide clear instructions and extra seeds in our Steady State grow kits to account for incidents that may require a re-plant or two. If at first you don't suc-seed, just try again!
Stay tuned to find out who our winners are next week!