Simulation study of nutrient uptake by plants from soilless cultures as affected by salinity buildup and transpiration

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Soilless plant growth systems are widely used as a means to save irrigation water and to reduce groundwater contamination. While nutrient concentrations in the growth medium are depleted due to uptake by the plants, salinity and toxic substances accumulate due to transpiration. A theoretical model is suggested, to simulate nutrient uptake by plants grown in soilless cultures with recycled solutions. The model accounts for salinity accumulation with time and plant growth, and its effects on uptake of the different nutrients by means of interaction with Na and Cl ions. The sink term occurs due to uptake by a growing root system. Influx as a function of the ion concentration is according to Michaelis-Menten active mechanisms for K+, NO3--N, NH4+-N, PO4-P, Ca2+, Mg2+ and SO42-, whose influx parameters are affected by Na and Cl-, but not with time (age). Sodium influx is passive above a critical concentration. Sum of cations-anions concentrations is balanced by Cl- to maintain electro-neutrality of the growth solution. Salinity (by means of Na concentration) suppresses root and leaf growth, which further effect uptake and transpiration. The model accounts for instantaneous transpiration losses, during daytime only and its effect on uptake of nutrients and plant development due to salt accumulation. The model was tested against NO3- and K+ uptake by plants associated with cumulative transpiration and with different NaCl salinity levels. Deviations from observed K+ uptake should be attributed to the salinity tolerance of the plants. In a study with data obtained from published literature, the model indicated that nutrient depletion and salinity buildup might be completely different with fully grown-up plants (that do not grow) and plants that grow with time. Depletion of different nutrients are according to their initial concentration and plant uptake rate, but also affected by their interactions with Na and Cl ions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalPlant and Soil
Issue number1
StatePublished - 30 Jul 2001


  • Hydroponics
  • Ion influx
  • NaCl salinity buildup
  • Recycled nutrient solution
  • Root growth
  • Soilless culture
  • Uptake mechanisms


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