Plant and Soil

, Volume 384, Issue 1–2, pp 7–20 | Cite as

Effect of wheat phosphorus status on leaf surface properties and permeability to foliar-applied phosphorus

  • Victoria FernándezEmail author
  • Paula Guzmán
  • Courtney A. E. Peirce
  • Therese M. McBeath
  • Mohamed Khayet
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
Regular Article



This study aimed to analyse the effect of phosphorus (P) nutritional status on wheat leaf surface properties, in relation to foliar P absorption and translocation.


Plants of Triticum aestivum cv. Axe were grown with three rates of root P supply (equivalent to 24, 8 and 0 kg P ha−1) under controlled conditions. Foliar P treatments were applied and the rate of drop retention, P absorption and translocation was measured. Adaxial and abaxial leaf surfaces were analysed by scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The contact angles, surface free energy and work-of-adhesion for water were determined.


Wheat leaves are markedly non-wettable, the abaxial leaf side having some degree of water drop adhesion versus the strong repulsion of water drops by the adaxial side. The total leaf area, stomatal and trichome densities, cuticle thickness and contact angles decreased with P deficiency, while the work-of-adhesion for water increased. Phosphorous deficient plants failed to absorb the foliar-applied P.


Phosphorous deficiency altered the surface structure and functioning of wheat leaves, which became more wettable and had a higher degree of water drop adhesion, but turned less permeable to foliar-applied P. The results obtained are discussed within an agronomic and eco-physiological context.


Cuticle Foliar absorption Plant surfaces Trichomes Stomata Wettability 



The authors acknowledge funding from the CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture Flagship Fellowship Fund. Victoria Fernández is supported by a “Ramón y Cajal” contract (MINECO, Spain), co-financed by the European Social Fund. Paula Guzmán is supported by a pre-doctoral grant from the Technical University of Madrid. Courtney A. E. Peirce is supported by the Grains Research and Development Corporation of Australia and the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation (USA).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria Fernández
    • 1
    Email author
  • Paula Guzmán
    • 1
  • Courtney A. E. Peirce
    • 2
  • Therese M. McBeath
    • 3
  • Mohamed Khayet
    • 4
  • Mike J. McLaughlin
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Genetics and Eco-physiology Research Group, School of Forest EngineeringTechnical University of MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.School of Agriculture, Food and WineThe University of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  3. 3.CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture FlagshipCSIRO Ecosystem SciencesGlen OsmondAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Applied Physics I, Faculty of PhysicsUniversity Complutense of MadridMadridSpain
  5. 5.CSIRO Sustainable Agriculture FlagshipCSIRO Land and WaterGlen OsmondAustralia

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