ETYM Cf. French nitrate.
Salt or ester of nitric acid, containing the NO3-ion. Nitrates are used in explosives, in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, in curing meat (see niter), and as fertilizers. They are the most water-soluble salts known and play a major part in the nitrogen cycle. Nitrates in the soil, whether naturally occurring or from inorganic or organic fertilizers, can be used by plants to make proteins and nucleic acids. However, runoff from fields can result in nitrate pollution.