Plants, unlike animals, are autotrophs organisms that produce new biomass from inorganic resources (carbon dioxide and mineral nutrients), using light energy. By trapping solar energy in photosynthetic systems, they are able to synthesize organic nutrients. However, plants do require mineral nutrients, which they absorb from the soil surrounding their roots. The nutrients found in soil result in part from the gradual breakdown of the rocky material on Earth’s surface as a result of rain and, in some areas, freezing. Primarily composed of alumina and silica, rocks also contain smaller amounts of all the mineral elements needed by plants. Another source of soil nutrients is the decomposition of dead plants and animals and their waste products.
Not all plants have the same need and not even the same amount of absorption over time. This is conditioned by the species considered but also by other factors such as climatic factors: for example, a spring and sunny climate leads to a greater "consumption" by the plant and therefore to a greater quantity of fertilizer required. Since each plant has different needs, it is recommended to use fertilizers tailored to their needs. Too few nutrients result in reduced growth and a less profitable crop. On the other hand, an excess of fertilizer is equally harmful: the plants, in addition to being more susceptible to stress, risk bending in the event of wind due to the weak structural fabric. Agriculture's greatest challenge is to continue to increase crop yields per unit of land farmed to meet the food requirements of a growing world population. It is no secret that proper nutrient management has been and continues to be critical to advances in crop production. Understanding crop-specific nutrient requirements and optimum rate, time, and method of nutrient application is essential for improving crop yield, quality, and profitability while protecting the environment.