2 March 2024

Of great importance in nature and industry, a chelate is a chemical compound that has multiple applications in agriculture and other fields. It is a chemical compound formed by the union of a metal and an organic molecule that contains two or more atoms capable of coordinating with the metal. These atoms are called ligands and are usually oxygen, nitrogen, or sulfur. In this post we show you what is a chelateits properties, importance and usefulness.

The main function of chelates is to act as a chelating agent, that is, a molecule that has the ability to surround a metal forming a stable ring-like structure. This formation protects metal from unwanted reactionsmaintaining its integrity and improving its availability to living organisms.

What is a chelate used for?

A chelate is used to modify the chemical and biological properties of a metal, making it more soluble, more stable, more bioavailable or more selective. This allows the metal to be transported, absorbed, used or eliminated by living beings or industrial systems more efficiently and safely.

In the context of agriculture, chelators are used to prevent and treat chlorosis, a condition that affects plant growth due to nutrient deficiencies in the soil.

This chemical compound has a number of interesting properties that make them useful in a variety of applications. Thanks to these qualities, these elements are frequently used for:

  • Prevent or treat metal deficiency or toxicity in living beings.
  • Improve the quality of food.
  • Clean up the environment.
  • Manufacture medicines.
  • Produce fertilizers.
  • Catalyze chemical reactions, among others.

What are the benefits of chelates?

Chelates have multiple benefits for both living beings and industrial systems, some of the most notable being:

  • Improve solubility and stability of metals in aqueous solutions, avoiding their precipitation or oxidation.
  • Increase bioavailability and bioactivity of metals in living organisms. This makes it easy to transport, absorb and use.
  • reduce toxicity and the secondary effects of metals on living organisms. In this way, it prevents its accumulation or its interaction with other cellular components.
  • Enhance selectivity and the specificity of metals in chemical reactions, which favors their coupling with the appropriate substrates.
  • Optimize performance and quality industrial processes involving metals. For example, the manufacture of medicines, fertilizers, food, cosmetics, paints, etc.

What are the natural chelates?

Natural chelates are those found in nature or produced by living things. Some examples of natural chelates are:

  • chlorophyll: is a magnesium chelate that binds to four nitrogen atoms of an organic molecule called porphyrin.
  • hemoglobin: indispensable in our body, it is a recognized iron chelate that binds to four nitrogen atoms of an organic molecule called heme.
  • vitamin b12: This well-known cobalt chelate binds to five nitrogen and one carbon atoms of an organic molecule called corrin.
  • humic acids: are natural chelating agents obtained from the decomposition of organic matter. They are used to improve the physical, chemical and biological properties of the soil.

Chelator properties

Chelators have several properties that determine their efficacy and applicability. Some of these properties are:

  • The stability constant: is a measure of the strength with which the chelant binds to the metal. This depends on the type and number of ligands, the size and charge of the metal, as well as the pH and temperature of the solution.
  • The selectivity: refers to the measure of the chelator’s preference for one metal over others. Selectivity is associated with the relative affinity of the chelator for the different metals, as well as their concentration in the solution.
  • solubility: indicates the ability of the chelate to dissolve. It will be easier to handle and transport depending on the solubility of the chelate. This factor depends on the polarity and hydrophobicity of the chelant, as well as the type and concentration of the solvent.

Factors of use of chelators

Some factors to consider when using these chemical compounds include the choice of the correct chelate for the mineral to be applied, the proper dosage and the correct way of application. In addition, the quality of the soil and water can affect the effectiveness of chelates, so it is important to use them appropriately in each case.

What are the benefits that chelates provide to plants?

Chelates can provide different benefits to plants, depending on the mineral to be applied. Some of the common benefits include iron deficiency correctionwhich is one of the nutrients whose deficiency can limit the growth and health of plants.

In addition, chelates can help correct the deficiency of other essential nutrients. For example, in the case of substances such as manganese, calcium or zinc. In this way you can improve general health and quality of the plants.

The importance of chelates in crop nutrition

The importance of chelates in crop nutrition lies in their ability to improve the availability of nutrients for plants. This can not only improve the health and quality of crops, but can also increase production and yields.

Chelating agents used in agriculture

Chelating agents used in agriculture are synthetic or natural organic substances which are used to form chelates with the metals present in mineral fertilizers. Among the most used are:

  • EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid): it is the most used and most versatile, since it forms chelates with most metals.
  • EDDHA (ethylenediaminodihydroxyphenylacetic acid): it is the most effective chelating agent to form chelates with iron, since it has high stability and high selectivity: it is the most recommended to correct iron chlorosis in crops.
  • DTPA (diethylenetriaminepentaacetic acid): similar to EDTA, but with higher selectivity and lower stability.
  • HEIDA (hydroxyethyliminodiacetic acid): it is a biodegradable and ecological chelating agent, which forms chelates with iron, zinc, manganese and copper.

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