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Elucidating the role of Kelpak® on the growth, phytohormone composition, and phenolic acids in macronutrient-stressed Ceratotheca triloba


We evaluated the role of Kelpak® on growth, nutritional content, phytohormones, and phenolic acids in the angiosperm Ceratotheca triloba (Bernh.) Hook.f. grown under macronutrient-deficient conditions. Seeds were germinated in the greenhouse and established seedlings were treated with 50% Hoagland’s solution (50% HS) or nutrient-deficient solutions lacking one of the following: nitrogen (-N), phosphorus (-P), potassium (-K), which were either treated with or without Kelpak® (control). After 4 months of growth, macronutrient deficiency severely reduced growth and nutritional composition in plants. Nevertheless, the detrimental effects of insufficient macronutrient supply on growth were ameliorated with the application of Kelpak®, with a fourfold (-N), threefold (-P), and twofold (-K) increase in leaf and root fresh weight. Mineral and carbohydrate levels increased in plants deprived of N and P when Kelpak® was applied in the different soils. Macronutrient stress (N, P, K) increased phytohormone production in C. triloba more than in 50% HS-treated plants. The phytohormone content in macronutrient-deficient leaves was further enhanced with the application of Kelpak®. On the contrary, application of Kelpak® suppressed the production of phenolic acids in 50% HS, -N, and -K-treated plants when compared to the control treatments. The interaction between macronutrient deficiency and Kelpak® application played an important role in the regulation of phytohormone and phenolic acid concentration in C. triloba. The current findings demonstrated the potential of Kelpak® as an efficient biostimulant that enhances nutrient uptake for improved growth and biochemicals in C. triloba under macronutrient stress condition.

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Stellenbosch University (NAM) and North West University (AOA) are acknowledged for provision of access to resources utilized during the preparation of the manuscript.


We received financial support from the National Research Foundation (NRF, Grant UID: 89290), Graça Machel (Canon Collins), and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Pietermaritzburg), South Africa. Financial assistance also was received from The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport of the Czech Republic via ERDF project “Plants as a tool for sustainable global development” (No. CZ.02.1.01/0.0/0.0/16_019/0000827), the Internal Grant Agency of Palacký University (IGA_PrF_2019_018), and the Czech Science Foundation (Grant 17-06613S).

Author information

NAM conceived the research idea, designed the experiments, conducted greenhouse experiments, and quantified the stress-related phytohormones. AOA, MGK, ON, JG, and KD advised on relevant experimental design and experiments performed. JG, KD, and MS provided equipment used for quantification of phenolic acids and phytohormones. AOA, IP, LP, and MŠ assisted with the quantification of phytohormones. AOA provided technical assistance in the interpretation of the phytohormone and phenolic acid data. NAM prepared the manuscript while all authors edited and approved the final version. JVS and JFF coordinated and supervised the project.

Correspondence to Johannes Van Staden.

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Masondo, N.A., Aremu, A.O., Kulkarni, M.G. et al. Elucidating the role of Kelpak® on the growth, phytohormone composition, and phenolic acids in macronutrient-stressed Ceratotheca triloba. J Appl Phycol 31, 2687–2697 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10811-019-01759-z

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  • Abscisic acid
  • Biostimulant
  • Cytokinins
  • Jasmonic acid
  • Phytochemicals
  • Traditional leafy vegetable