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The importance of molybdenum and cobalt in plants

Molybdenum (Mo) is an essential element for the plant, as it participates in two fundamental enzyme systems in nitrogen absorption: nitrate reductase and nitrogenase. These enzymes are responsible for converting nitrate into nitrite and finally into the absorbable form NH3. In addition, the presence of molybdenum is important for the fixation of atmospheric nitrogen either by bacteria that do it directly (Azotobacter spp.) or in symbiosis (Rhizobium sp), cyanophycean algae, angiosperm fixers, etc. Plants also use molybdenum to convert inorganic phosphorus to organic forms within themselves. On the other hand, molybdenum is essential for the formation of ascorbic acid and for the action of enzymes such as ascorbic oxidase, adenine oxidase, xanthine oxidase (Zambrano 2020, Urbano, 1992). It also promotes iron metabolism. Mo deficiencies tend to occur in acidic, caked, cold and waterlogged soils, with reductive conditions, which make it unadsorbable by the plant (Urbano, 1992). There is a certain similarity between the action of cobalt (Co) and molybdenum, as both are involved in the symbiotic and atmospheric fixation of nitrogen, much more pronounced in leguminous plants due to the fact that they are essential for the formation of root nodules. 

Mechanism of participation of molybdenum and cobalt in nitrogen fixation in legumes (Source: Agroestrategias consultores).

Rhizobia are bacteria present in the root nodules of leguminous plants, they do not independently fix nitrogen in the same way as the plant does, so it is the interaction between the two that causes nitrogen fixation.  These bacteria need oxygen to produce nitrogen fixation, but on the other hand, nitrogenase, the enzyme that catalyses the main reaction of nitrogen fixation, is inactivated by oxygen. Leghemoglobin is a regulatory protein present in the nodules that controls the oxygen concentration levels inside the root nodule (Garcia, 2011). Cobalt is involved in the structure of vitamin B12, which is necessary for the synthesis of leghemoglobin, thus indirectly determining optimal nodule activity in the plant (Golo et al., 2009). Increasing Co. supply increases rhizobial growth, nitrogen fixation, coenzyme B12 content and leghemoglobin formation in the rhizobia. Soil acidity is directly involved in the solubility and absorption of cobalt by the plant. As both elements (Mo and Co) are directly linked to nitrogen fixation and absorption, their deficiency has a strong influence on crop yields. As part of our portfolio of solutions, we are looking for a formulation that not only provides molybdenum and cobalt in a nutritional form, but also, thanks to the presence of bioelicitor molecules, strengthens the plant and therefore improves the absorption of these nutrients.  BIOKELAT® CO-MO is a biostimulant complexed with soluble cobalt and molybdenum that is rapidly absorbed and translocated by seeds and plant tissue, especially indicated as a biological nitrogen fixer and as a fruit ripening retardant.


  • Zambrano Zambrano, J. G., & Jurado Olivo, E. A. (2020). Efecto de aplicaciones foliares de molibdeno sobre el uso eficiente de nitrógeno y rendimiento en maíz amarillo duro (Bachelor's thesis, Calceta: ESPAM MFL).
  • García, S. C. (2011). Bacterias simbióticas fijadoras de nitrógeno. Cuadernos del Tomás, (3), 173-186.
  • Golo, A. L., Kappes, C., Carvalho, M. A. C. D., & Yamashita, O. M. (2009). Qualidade das sementes de soja com a aplicação de diferentes doses de molibdênio e cobalto. Revista Brasileira de Sementes, 31(1), 40-49.
  • Urbano Terrón, P. (1992). Tratado de fitotecnia general. Mundi-Prensa Libros.

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