What Three Things Does a Plant Need to Make Food?

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Green plants need a source of light in order to undergo photosynthesis.

Green plants contain a pigment in their leaves called chlorophyll. If they did not have this pigment, they would not be able to make food. Plants use chlorophyll as a basic building block, with other necessary items extracted from their environment, to go through the process of making their food. This process is called photosynthesis. Without one or more of these items, plants cannot properly make the food they need in order to grow.


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Plants use both soil and water to transport nutrients into their cells. Soil contains minerals that plants require, and water adds essential moisture that lubricates the plant and shuttles the nutrients throughout the plant. Nutrients dissolve in the water and make their way into the plant. The minerals and water become building blocks that the plant uses during photosynthesis to generate food. Plants use both macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients that plants need in order to make their own food include phosphorous, potassium, nitrogen, sulfur, magnesium and calcium. These are the larger minerals that tend to get leached from the soil first. Micronutrients are still essential for photosynthesis, but plants need them in smaller amounts. Some micronutrients include iron, manganese, copper and boron.



Light of some type is essential for plants to undergo photosynthesis. Plants can use either natural sunlight or artificial light, but they cannot make food without any light at all. Plants use the light as a form of energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into the sugars it needs for food. Too much light can be harmful for plants as well, but it is better than no light.

Carbon Dioxide

Plants draw in carbon dioxide from the air around them and convert it to oxygen while they make food. Plants can draw in small amounts of carbon dioxide through their root systems, but they draw in the majority of the carbon dioxide they need through their leaves. Humans produce carbon dioxide from breathing in and processing oxygen, so plants and humans make a good team.