Plant Nutrition and Soil Fertility Manual: 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Plant Nutrition and Soil Fertility Manual

2nd Edition

By J. Benton Jones, Jr.

CRC Press

304 pages | 10 B/W Illus.

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As soil and crop management procedures have become more complex, County Agricultural Agents, farm advisors, consultants, and fertilizer and chemical dealers have had to specialize in some aspect of soil fertility and crop nutrition management procedures, limiting their ability to provide a range of advice and services. Most farmers and growers can no longer turn to just one source for the information and instruction needed to achieve their production goals.

With over 70 percent new material, the second edition of the Plant Nutrition and Soil Fertility Manual discusses the principles determining how plants grow and the elements essential for successful crop production, with a focus on the principles of soil fertility and plant nutrition. The book covers physical and chemical properties of soil, chemical and organic fertilizers, soil acidity and alkalinity, liming and liming materials, and micronutrients essential to plant growth. It also describes elements toxic to plants, soil testing, and plant analysis.

The topics and discussion in this self-contained book are practical and user-friendly, yet comprehensive enough to cover material presented in upper-level soil and plant science courses. It allows practitioners with general background knowledge to feel confident applying the principles presented to soil/crop production systems.


Praise for the First Edition

"This book has the admirable quality of being both organized to facilitate rapid look-up of information and being written in a readable style."

The Growing EDGE (out of print)

Table of Contents

Section I


Management Requirements

Productivity Factors

Climatic Factors

Moving Up the Yield Scale

Product Quality

Soil Fertility Principles

Fertile Soil Defined

Making and Keeping a Soil "Fertile"

Biological Factors

An "Ideal Soil"

Soil Fertility Management Concepts

Multiple Factor Yield Influence

Soil Condition Related to Deficiency in a Major Element and Micronutrient

Elemental Content of the Soil and Soil Solution

Plant Nutrition Principles


The Function of Plants

Determination of Essentiality

Essential Element Content in Plants

Classification of the Thirteen Essential Mineral Elements

Role of the Essential Plant Nutrient Elements

Plant Nutrient Element Sources

Element Absorption and Translocation

Elemental Accumulation

Element Absorption and Plant Genetics

Diagnostic Plant Symptoms of Essential Plant Nutrient Element Insufficiencies

The Plant Root


Root Function

Root Hairs

Lateral Roots

The Rhizosphere

Root Ion Absorption

Root Crops

How to be a Diagnostician

The Diagnostic Approach

Being a Diagnostician

Diagnostic Factors

Evaluating Diagnostic Procedures


Weather Conditions

Factors Affecting Essential Nutrient Element Concentrations in Plants

Plant (Crop) Wilting


Certified Crop Advisor Programs

Section II: Physical and Physiochemical Characteristics of Soil

Soil Taxonomy, Horizontal Characteristics, and Clay Minerals

Soil Orders (U.S. System of Soil Taxonomy)

Designations for Soil Horizons and Layers

Physical Properties of Soils

Textural Classification

Soil Separates or Primary Soil Separates

Soil Separate Properties

Soil Texture Characterization Definitions

Soil Structure

Tillage Practices

Water-Holding Capacity

Physiochemical Properties of Soil

Soil Separate Properties

Major Phyllosilicate Minerals in Soils

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) of a Soil Based on Texture

Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) Determination of a Soil

Anion Exchange Capacity

Soil pH: Its Determination and Interpretation


Causes of Soil Acidity

Water pH Determination of Mineral Soil, Organic Soil, and Organic Soilless Rooting Media

pH Determination using a Calibrated pH Meter

Other Soil pH Determination Procedure

Salt pH Determination for a Mineral Soil

pH Interpretation: Mineral Soil

pH Interpretation: Organic Soils

pH Interpretation: Organic Soilless Medium

Soil pH Constancy

Plant Root Function

Soil Acidity and NPK Fertilizer Efficiency

Soil pH Effect on Elemental Availability and/or Soil Solution Composition

Soil Buffer pH

pH Determination of Water

Soil Organic Matter

Definitions of Soil Organic Matter and Its Components


Soil Organic Matter Characteristics

Methods of Soil Organic Matter Determination

Management Requirements for High Organic Matter Content Soils

Adverse Affects of Organic Matter Additions

Section III: Plant Elemental Requirements and Associated Elements

Major Essential Plant Elements


Methods of Expression

Established Date for Essentiality/Researchers

Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen

Major Essential Element Properties

Micronutrients Considered Essential to Plants


Established Date for Essentiality/Researchers

Content and Function

Soil and Plant Species Associations

Micronutrient Characteristics

Micronutrient Properties

Possible Additional Essential Micronutrients

Elements Considered Beneficial to Plants

The A to Z Nutrient Solution

Elements Essential for Animals

Basis for Essentiality for Beneficial Elements

Potential Essential Elements

"New" Beneficial Elements

Element Substitution

Form of Response


Elements Considered Toxic to Plants


The Nature of Elemental Toxicity

Aluminum and Copper Toxicity

Other Elements

Plant Species Factor

The Heavy Metals

Trace Elements Found in Plants


Elements Categorized as Trace Elements

High Soil Content Elements

Availability Factors

Accumulator Plants and Elements

Symbiotic Element

Section IV: Methods of Soil Fertility and Plant Nutrition Assessment

Soil Testing


Field Sampling

Soil Laboratory Selection

Laboratory Soil Testing Procedures

Interpretation of a Soil Test Result

Soil Test Result Tracking (Monitoring)

Liming and Fertilizer Use Strategies

Plant Analysis and Tissue Testing

Plant Analysis Objectives

Sequence of Procedures

Sampling Techniques

Plant Tissue Handling, Preparation, and Analysis

Methods of Interpretation

Word Classification of Elemental Concentrations

As a Diagnostic Technique

Experience Required

Data Logging/Tracking of Plant Analyses

Utilization of Plant Analyses for Nutrient Element Management

Tissue Testing

Indirect Evaluation Procedures

Section V: Amendments for Soil Fertility Maintenance

Lime and Liming Materials

Liming Terms

Liming Materials

Liming Materials and Their Calcium Carbonate Equivalent (CCE)

Mesh Size

Quality Factor Designation

Lime Requirement (LR)

Soil Test Ratio of Ca to Mg Determines Form of Limestone to Apply

Liming Rate Determined by Acidifying Effect of Fertilizer

"Lime Shock"

Lime Incorporation

Depth of Incorporation

Subsoil pH

Inorganic Chemical Fertilizers and Their Properties


Fertilizer Terminology

Characteristics of the Major Elements as Fertilizer

Conversion Factors for the Major Essential Fertilizer Elements

Characteristics of the Micronutrients as Fertilizer

The Physical and Chemical Properties of Fertilizers

Naturally Occurring Inorganic Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers and Their Properties


Composted Animal Manures

Animal Manure Major Element Composition

Other Organic Materials

Soil and Plant Factors

Fertilizer Placement


Methods of Fertilizer Placement

Soil Water, Irrigation, and Water Quality

Soil Water Terminology

Soil Factors Affecting Soil Water-Holding Capacity and Movement


Irrigation Methods

Irrigation Water Quality

Water Treatment Procedures

What is Water?

Section VI: Methods of Soilless Plant Production


Hydroponics Defined

Historical Events

Hydroponic Techniques

Hydroponic Growing Systems

Rooting Media

Water Quality

The Nutrient Solution

Reagents and Nutrient Solution Formulations

Concentration Range and Ratios

pH Interpretation-Hydroponic Nutrient Solution

Reconstitution of the Nutrient Solution

Accumulation of Nutrient Elements and Precipitates

Soilless Rooting and/or Growing Media

Soilless Media Ingredients

Soilless Media Formulations

Physical Properties

Physiochemical Properties

Control of pH

Use Formulations

Bag Culture Systems

"Fertility" Determination Procedure for an Organic Soilless Mix

Section VII: Miscellaneous

Organic Farming/Gardening

Chemicalization of Crop Production

"Organically Grown" Defined

Suitable Inorganic Fertilizer Materials

Suitable Organic Fertilizers

Organic Soil Fertility Management

Soil Physical Properties

Food Safety and Quality Issues

Weather and Climatic Conditions


Climatic Factors

Weather as a Diagnostic Factor

Best Management Practices (BMPs)


Best Management Practice Application Broadened

Best Practice

Important Protocol Considerations

Precision Farming

Section Appendices


Formulation and Use of Soil Extraction Reagents

Preparation Procedures and Elemental Content Determination for Plant Tissue

Weights and Measures

Reference Books and Texts



About the Author

Dr. J. Benton Jones has written extensively on the topics of soil fertility and plant nutrition over his professional career. After obtaining a B.S. degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Illinois, he served on active duty in the U.S. Navy for two years. After discharge from active duty, he entered graduate school, obtaining M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Pennsylvania State University in agronomy. For 10 years, Dr. Jones held the position as research professor at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) in Wooster. During this time, his research activities focused on the relationship between soil fertility and plant nutrition. In 1967, he established the Ohio Plant Analysis Laboratory.

Joining the University of Georgia faculty in 1968, Dr. Jones designed and had built the Soil and Plant Analysis Service Laboratory building for the Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, serving as its Director for 4 years. During the period from 1972 and his retirement in 1989, Dr. Jones held various research and administrative positions at the University of Georgia. Following retirement, he and a colleague established Micro-Macro Laboratory in Athens, Georgia, a laboratory providing analytical services for the assay of soils and plant tissues as well as water, fertilizers, and other similar agricultural substances.

Dr. Jones was the first President of the Soil and Plant Analysis Council and then served as its Secretary-Treasurer for a number of years. He established two international scientific journals, Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis and the Journal of Plant Nutrition, serving as their Executive Editors during the early years of publication.

Dr. Jones is considered an authority on applied plant physiology and the use of analytical methods for assessing the nutrient element status of rooting media and plants as a means for ensuring plant nutrient element sufficiency in both soil and soilless crop production settings.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / Botany
SCIENCE / Life Sciences / General
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Agriculture / General