chelation-imageThe word chelate translated from the Greek word “chel”, means crab’s claw. It refers to the claw like manner in which a metal (usually iron) is loosely bound in a chelated molecule. Elements are more easily absorbed by plant roots in chelated form than elements that are not chelated. Chelates are organic molecules that can retain or release specific metal ions. These ions would include plant nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, cobalt, copper, zinc, iron and manganese. A chelate is a molecular compound forming a complex of cations with organic compounds forming a ring structure. Upon entering plant cells cationic nutrients will form chelates with organic and amino acids. Chelation enables the nutrients to move freely inside the plants. The chelation process increases the mobility and therefor availability of nutrients to plants.

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Chelates And Cation Exchange Capacity

Chelate’s end effect is much like a cation exchange in the sence that they hold elements until they are needed and then releases them for plant use, but the chemistry for doing this is different. Chelates work outside and inside of the plant. Outside the plant cell, in the soil, a chelated element is kept in reserve and can not form a compound with another element and participate out of the water medium. Once inside a plant cell some metals are prohibited from moving freely. But when they are in chelated form the needed metal is able to move readily inside the cell and from cell to cell.

Chelation, Chlorophyll and Blood

Chelation takes place not just in the soils and plants. It is an ongoing fundamental process in plants and animals. Us humans are dependent on the continual process of chelation as well… in our blood for example. You and I are more related to our herb plants than we think. Both of us rely on a chelating compound, fundamental to our structure. Within humans, it’s the deeply crimson heme which transports, via our blood, the much needed oxygen cycled by vegetation. Plants as well have a vital chelation substance, green chlorophyll. It is so related to heme that you only have to exchange an iron atom for a magnesium atom, to have the identical molecular structure.

chelated-metals-examplesExamples of Chelated Elements

Chelates are constructed from the complexing of cations with organic compounds resulting in a ring structure. If you click on the examples below you can see the central M (metal) in the chelate “claw”. The metal will will not participate out of solution and once inside the cell, will be released when needed.

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Positive Aspects of the Chelation Process:

1. Increase in available nutrients. Chelating agents will bind insoluble iron in alkaline soils and substrates to make them available to plants.

2. Prevents nutrients from forming insoluble, unavailable compounds. Chelating agents of metal ions will protect the chelated ions from unwanted chemical reactions and therefor increase the availability of those ions for plant uptake.

3. Chelates reduce toxicity of some metal ions to plants. Chelation in substrates reduces the concentration of metal ions to a normal beneficial level. The process is done via humic acid and high molecular weight compounds found in organic matter.

4. Chelates prevent nutrients from wash out. Metal ions which form chelates are much more stable than free ions.

5. The chelation process increases the mobility and therefor availability of nutrients to plants.

6. Chelating agents reduces the growth of plant pathogens by reducing available iron.