Plant and Soil

, Volume 122, Issue 1, pp 1–8 | Cite as

The effect of oxygen deficiency on uptake and distribution of nutrients in maize plants

  • B. J. Atwell
  • B. T. Steer


Young maize (Zea mays L.) plants, 7 days after germination were exposed to nutrient solutions which were either aerated or not aerated for 14 days. Nutrients were supplied as 50% strength Hoagland’s solution or, in the case of the four ‘low nutrient’ treatments, N, P, K or Ca were supplied at the equivalent of 10% strength Hoagland’s solution.

Shoot fresh weight was decreased by 25% due to lack of aeration; O2 deficiency also impaired leaf elongation but not dry weights, suggesting that lack of O2 in the roots impaired cell expansion in shoots more than dry weight accumulation.

The distribution of N, P, K and Ca within shoots was consistent with their relative mobilities in the phloem; at least 7% of Ca in plants after 14 days of treatments was found in the oldest leaf whereas N, P and K were rapidly remobilised to younger tissues. Between 33 and 49% of the total N, P and K in the shoot was found in the 40 mm of tissue at the base of the growing leaves in plants grown for 14 days at low nutrient concentrations. Concentrations (dry weight basis) of phloem-mobile nutrients were also greatest in the growing zones of the leaves, especially in the case of N and P. Calcium, on the other hand, was found in relatively low concentrations in the youngest tissue and as with the other nutrients, concentrations declined due to low external supply, non-aeration or a combination of both.

In spite of the failure of Ca to move from old to young leaves, the effect of the deficiencies of N, P and K was probably as severe as that of Ca in the youngest tissues of treated plants. Calcium uptake by the whole shoot appeared to be slightly less sensitive to O2 deficits than that of N, P and K. This compensated for the failure of Ca to move to growing tissues during periods of low external Ca supply.

Key words

aeration ion uptake oxygen roots Zea mays L. 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. J. Atwell
    • 1
    • 2
  • B. T. Steer
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  2. 2.Tropical Crops Research Group, School of AgricultureThe University of Western AustraliaNedlandsAustralia

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