What Effects Does Iron Have on Plants & Animals?

Written by j. lang wood
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What Effects Does Iron Have on Plants & Animals?
Iron is a component of haemoglobin, which carries oxygen through the body. (boiling blood image by Adrian Hillman from Fotolia.com)

Iron is a mineral known by the symbol Fe in the periodic table of the elements. Iron is an important nutrient in life processes. It can be found in many foods, including meat, beans, egg yolks, spinach, dried fruits, oatmeal and peas. Iron is an important micronutrient in plant health. Many animals get their iron from eating plant matter. Plants generally get their iron from the soil in which they grow.

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Why is Iron Important to Life Processes?

Iron is an important component of the proteins that help to carry oxygen throughout an organism. Haemoglobin is one of these iron-containing elements and gives blood its red colouring. Iron is also essential for cell replacement and immune system response, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website. Iron is carefully stored and regulated in the body. In plants, iron plays an important role in electron transfer of photosynthesis and respiration. Iron helps manufacture the chlorophyll that acts like the plant's blood.

Iron Excess in Animals

Some humans have a genetic inability to regulate iron uptake in the body, and these people can suffer from iron overload disorders, which cause an accumulation of iron in organs such as the liver, heart, pancreas, joints and skin. Other people, as well as animals, can get too much iron, which can cause symptoms of fatigue, abdominal pain, skin colour changes, hair loss, impotence, elevated blood sugar, irregular heart rhythm and heart attack. Avoiding iron-rich foods will help to restore the balance in the body

Iron Deficiency in Animals

Animals generally get enough iron from the foods they eat, but sometimes these foods are lacking in sufficient iron. Iron deficiency in humans and animals can cause symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, depression, slowed growth, rapid breathing, anorexia and susceptibility to disease. Additional iron added to the diet will restore the animal to good health. This occurs in humans, as well, and iron supplements may be taken if consuming additional iron in foods is not practical.

Iron Excess in Plants

Compacted, acidic soil can also produce an excess of iron, which causes plants to develop poorly formed root systems and dark spots on leaves. Excess iron can also interfere with the uptake of manganese, which is important for plant growth. Conditioning the soil and adding alkaline compounds can help to reduce excess iron.

Iron Deficiency in Plants

Plants require small amounts of iron and generally get all they need from the soil in which they grow. Occasionally, the iron in the soil is depleted, and plants will begin to show the effects of iron deficiency. In plants, this deficiency is called chlorosis, and plants suffering from it will show symptoms of yellowing of the leaves, usually on new growth. Adding iron sulphate or iron chelate to soil alleviates the condition.

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