Nitrates are one of the three forms of nitrogen found in soil that plants use to grow and produce chlorophyll and proteins. It is a component of DNA, which transfers genetic information cell reproduction and plant reproduction. Healthy plants contain up to 4 percent nitrogen in the above ground structures.
Plants use chlorophyll in converting energy from the sun, water and carbon dioxide into sugars. These sugars form the fuel for the cells to grow and divide. While plants take up nitrogen from the soil through ammonium ions and nitrates, nitrates provide the most common source of nitrogen for plants. Nitrates move through the soil in the water that plants uptake. Because of their need for nitrates and water, plants develop large root systems to support the above ground structure.
Proteins are as essential for plant growth as they are for animals. With an inadequate protein supply, a plant withers and dies. While animals are dependent on their food supplies to provide their proteins, plants use nitrogen to produce amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks the plant uses to synthesize proteins.
Growth requires cellular reproduction. DNA is a combination of four nitrogen components in an order specific for each plant. The DNA molecule carries the genetic code for each cell and for the plant during reproduction. Without nitrates and the nitrogen they provide, the growth of roots, stems, foliage, fruits and seeds stops.