, Volume 205, Issue 1, pp 25-44

Organic acids in the rhizosphere – a critical review

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Abstract

Organic acids, such as malate, citrate and oxalate, have been proposed to be involved in many processes operating in the rhizosphere, including nutrient acquisition and metal detoxification, alleviation of anaerobic stress in roots, mineral weathering and pathogen attraction. A full assessment of their role in these processes, however, cannot be determined unless the exact mechanisms of plant organic acid release and the fate of these compounds in the soil are more fully understood. This review therefore includes information on organic acid levels in plants (concentrations, compartmentalisation, spatial aspects, synthesis), plant efflux (passive versus active transport, theoretical versus experimental considerations), soil reactions (soil solution concentrations, sorption) and microbial considerations (mineralization). In summary, the release of organic acids from roots can operate by multiple mechanisms in response to a number of well-defined environmental stresses (e.g., Al, P and Fe stress, anoxia): These responses, however, are highly stress- and plant-species specific. In addition, this review indicates that the sorption of organic acids to the mineral phase and mineralisation by the soil's microbial biomass are critical to determining the effectiveness of organic acids in most rhizosphere processes.