The effects of four Zn levels on the electrochemical and chemical properties of the soil solution, and on the growth and mineral nutrition of two rice varieties (IR26 and IR34) differing in tolerance to Zn deficiency were studied in the greenhouse using Zn-deficient soils from two locations. A similar experiment was conducted in culture solution to check how Zn addition affects translocation of other nutrients.
In both soil and culture solution, plant Zn concentrations alone was not enough to account for varietal tolerance to Zn deficiency. Comparison of nutrient to Zn and shoot to root ratios of nutrients was more useful in determining the possible mechanism of varietal tolerance. IR 34 appeared to tolerate the disorder due to its lower Zn requirement, more efficient Zn translocation and ability to maintain lower Fe/Zn, Cu/Zn, Mg/Zn and P/Zn ratios in the shoot than the more susceptible variety, IR26. This was shown to be due to decreased translocation of Fe, Mg and P to shoots and decreased absorption of Cu by the root in IR34 in culture solution studies. Adding Zn further reduces translocation or absorption of these nutrients and depending on the nutrient supply of the soil, could cause deficiencies or mineral imbalances, especially of Fe, Cu, and P.
These observed varietal differences regarding Zn requirement and the interaction of Zn with absorption and translocation of plant nutrients necessitates revision of recommendations for Zn fertilization. There is an inevitable need for Zn application in severely Zn-deficient soils regardless of rice variety. But on marginally Zn-deficient soils especially those low in Fe, Cu, or P, Zn fertilization is not advisable when resistant rice varieties are used.