Calcium was deemed an essential element for plant growth and development well over a hundred years ago and its importance in the growth of all the parts of plants is well documented by soil scientists and Agronomists. The mean Ca content of the earth’s crust is about 3.64%. It is usually a far greater amount than that most other plant nutrients.
The idea of writing this simple research paper on calcium is to enable coffee Planters, better understand the role and importance of this essential nutrient in enhancing coffee plant growth and development under both non-stressed and stressful conditions. Due to the steep slopes and often inhospitable terrain, the coffee bush enjoys the hospitality of well-drained soils but on the other hand, the slopes result in the runoff of soil, nutrients, and organic matter, which finally results in the formation of acidic or alkaline soils. This in turn adversely affects the physical and chemical properties of the soil. The traditional coffee belts experience up to 150 to 200 inches of rain and by all standards, this is indeed a very heavy rainfall, and that too in a short span of four months. The rainfall factor results in the leaching of nutrients below the level of the root zone and is an important contributing factor in the formation of soil acidity. In addition, the constant addition of synthetic fertilizer chemicals to the soil, coupled with high temperature, acid rain, industrial effluents getting into irrigation water, and excessive rainfall or severe drought results in severe acidity build-up in the soil system and affects the nutrient uptake of the coffee plantation.
Calcium is a secondary nutrient and is involved in several physiological processes that have a direct bearing, right from the establishment of plants in the nursery to crop growth, development, productivity, and stress response. Calcium serves as an important macronutrient for plants to grow. These macronutrients are essential elements needed by plants in more than 1mg/g of dry matter by quantity. They are used as calcium pectinate to form the middle lamella in the cell wall for the metabolism of lipids. They are also involved in the enlargement and division of the cell. Further, they participate in the translocation of carbohydrates and also activate enzyme action in plants. Most importantly, calcium, in-plant functions by serving both as a nutrient and a messenger.
Role of Calcium
The role of calcium in Agriculture and soil management involves many factors, a number of which are only indirectly related to the nutritive value of the element.
Calcium influences the growth and structure of plants, including their productivity.
Ca+2 inhibits shoot growth and promotes root growth.
The initiation of root hairs and feeder roots in both coffee Arabica and Robusta is primarily due to the availability of calcium.
Calcium is important in early fruit set and fruit development. During the fruit set, desired amounts of calcium in the soil results in better fruit.
Calcium plays a crucial role in the qualitative aspects of all multi-crops associated with coffee Agroforestry.
Calcium plays important biochemical functions and supports many metabolic processes.
It stimulates photosynthesis and helps in the better uptake of nitrogen.
Calcium improves the absorption of other nutrients by roots and their translocation within the plant.
Calcium plays a vital role in producing plant tissues.
It activates certain enzymes and a number of plant growth-regulating enzyme systems.
Calcium is actively responsible in coordinating certain cellular activities.
Calcium is responsible for drought tolerance, and avoidance.
It plays an active role in disease resistance.
It is responsible for the formation of cell walls and cell membranes.
It also has a vital function in soil structure.
Calcium helps convert nitrate-nitrogen and aid in cell synthesis.
Calcium enables the plant to make adjustments under adverse conditions such as high temperature, chilling, water stress and salinity.
A neutral Ph results in the proliferation of beneficial nitrogen fixers and phosphate solubilizers and reduces the population of harmful microbes.
Adequate amounts of Calcium significantly reduce the emergence of pests and diseases.
Important Tips to Coffee Planters
To maximize the availability and accessibility of calcium, it is important that a coffee grower maintain proper soil moisture levels (never too wet or too dry) at all times. This will ensure a steady flow of calcium to all growing parts of the plant.
Soils with high levels of clay or organic matter content will hold on to and systematically release calcium cations, maintaining a more consistent availability of the element.
Calcium content varies widely in soil. The availability of calcium from soil to plants is determined by many factors, such as the total calcium content, soil ph, cation exchange capacity, calcium percentage saturation, type of soil colloid, and the ratio of calcium to other cations in solution, etc.
Highly acidic soils impede the uptake of calcium ions. As the calcium percentage saturation decreases relative to the total CEC, the number of calcium ions absorbed by the plant decreases.
Despite, Calcium (Ca2+), being the third most abundant metal in nature, coffee plantations need external inputs of one or the other forms of calcium to support Agroforestry. Coffee Agro-climatic regions, throughout India, are facing the risk of climate variability and the impact of climate change. This has resulted in both very high daytime temperatures and a sudden dip in night temperatures. As a consequence, the entire coffee zones are under threat from pest, and disease incidence. Most coffee Planters have seen a significant decrease in crop yields and the reasons are many. We consider soil health (Low soil fertility) to be the number one reason, followed by poor or unbalanced fertilizer management.
Anand T Pereira and Geeta N Pereira. 2009. Shade Grown Ecofriendly Indian Coffee. Volume-1.
Vasant Gowariker (Author and Chief Editor), V. N. Krishnamurthy, Sudha Gowariker and Manik Dhanorkar. The FERTILIZER ENCYCLOPEDIA. 2005 Vasudha Research & Publications (P) Ltd. Pune.411016. India.
The role of calcium
Calcium—Nutrient and Messenger
The Importance of Calcium
Calcium in crops
What is the role of calcium
Calcium Nutrition in Coffee and Its Influence
Growth, Stress Tolerance
The Function of Calcium in Plants
Calcium (Ca): Essential for Plant Growth and Development