Plants require mineral salts such as nitrates for growth. The concentration of nitrates is higher on plant root cell than it is in the soil solution surrounding it. The plant cannot rely on diffusion as the nitrates would diffuse out of root cell into the soil.`

For an organism to function, substances must move into and out of cells. Three processes contribute to this movement – diffusion, osmosis and active transport. Substances are transported passively down concentration gradients. Often, substances have to be moved from a low to a high concentration - against a concentration gradient.

Active transport is a process that is required to move molecules against a concentration gradient.The process requires energy.

Active transport in plants For plants to take up mineral ions, ions are moved into root hairs, where they are in a higher concentration than in the dilute solutions in the soil. Active transport then occurs across the root so that the plant takes in the ions it needs from the soil around it.