Copper is Vital for Normal Growth and Well-being of Plants and Animals
Copper is an Essential Nutrient
Copper is an essential micro-nutrient for all living tissues and is vital for normal growth and well-being of plants and animals. Copper-containing soil treatments and feeds have a critical function in agriculture to correct copper-deficient soils and livestock to improve the yield of vital foodstuffs.
In animals, copper plays a part in the utilisation of iron for haemoglobin formation. An insufficiency of copper in an animal’s tissues can occur in two ways. It can be a simple straightforward copper deficiency, brought about by an actual deficiency of the element in the fodder, or it can be of the complex type, in which the diet contains the normal amount of copper but some other factor or factors obstruct in some way its assimilation by the animal. A good example of this is molybdenum, an excess of which depletes the animal’s copper reserves and the animal develops copper deficiency symptoms unless given additional copper.
How to grow two ears of corn where one grew before is a problem that is with us all the time. Copper can help towards increasing yields and raising the productivity of the land, to keep pace with the rise in population. Over a century ago attention was first focussed on what we now know as the major plant nutrients – nitrogen (N), phosphates (P) and potash (K). It was not until many decades later, as improved analytical methods became available, that it was realised that, in addition to NPK, numerous other micro or trace elements are just as essential to the growth and wellbeing of plants – a deficiency of any one element acting as a limiting factor.
Copper sulphate, because of its fungicidal and bactericidal properties, has been employed as a disinfectant on farms against storage rots and for the control and prevention of certain animal diseases, such as foot rot of sheep and cattle.
The first recorded use was in 1761, when it was discovered that seed grains soaked in a weak solution of copper sulphate inhibited seed-borne fungi.
The French scientist Millardet – while seeking a cure for downy mildew-diseased vines in the Bordeaux district of France – chanced to notice that those vines bordering the highways, which had been daubed with a paste of copper sulphate and lime in water in order to make the grapes unattractive to passers-by, appeared freer of downy mildew. This chance observation led to experiments with mixtures of copper sulphate, lime and water, and in 1885 Millardet announced to the world that he had found a cure for the dreaded mildew. This became known as Bordeaux mixture and saw the commencement of protective crop spraying.