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Further evidence that zinc is required throughout the root zone for optimal plant growth and development

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The effect of variable Zn supply with depth in a soil profile was examined in two wheat genotypes differing in their Zn efficiency. ‘Gatcher’ (Zn-inefficient) and ‘Excalibur’ (Zn-efficient) were grown in a low Zn soil in pots with two treatment zones. The upper zone (10 cm) was supplied with Zn while Zn was either supplied or withheld from the lower zone (25 cm). In both genotypes, withholding Zn from the lower zone had no effect on root growth in either the upper or lower zones; neither did it affect plant appearance prior to booting. However, withholding Zn from the lower zone delayed head emergence in Gatcher by some 10 d and depressed grain yield by 20%. In Excalibur, Zn treatment had no effect on head emergence or grain yield. In Gatcher, withholding Zn from the lower zone depressed water usage by 12% during a 60 d period preceding maturity. No effect of Zn treatment on water usage was seen in Excalibur. Tissue Zn concentrations closely reflected the lower zone Zn treatments in both genotypes. Irrespective of the Zn treatment, Excalibur had higher Zn concentrations in flag leaves but lower concentrations in grain than Gatcher. In whole shoots, genotypic differences in Zn concentration only occurred when Zn was added to the lower zone; Excalibur having almost twice that of Gatcher. Clearly, if Zn is not supplied to the entire root system there is the potential for impaired root function and plant development, and for reduced grain yield. Approaches to managing this problem are discussed.

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Nable, R.O., Webb, M.J. Further evidence that zinc is required throughout the root zone for optimal plant growth and development. Plant Soil 150, 247–253 (1993).

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