Plant and Soil

, Volume 384, Issue 1–2, pp 37–51 | Cite as

Wheat leaf properties affecting the absorption and subsequent translocation of foliar-applied phosphoric acid fertiliser

  • C. A. E. PeirceEmail author
  • T. M. McBeath
  • V. Fernández
  • M. J. McLaughlin
Regular Article


Background and aims

Although foliar fertilisation using liquid forms of phosphorus (P) is not a new concept, its adoption has been hindered by a limited understanding of the variability in performance of fluid forms of foliar P applied to broadacre crops. There is a need to identify how the surface structure of leaves influences the absorption and subsequent translocation of foliar-applied P in above ground plant parts.


This study examined the surface properties of wheat leaves using scanning electron microscopy and measured the recovery of foliar-applied fertiliser that was labelled with either 32P or 33P from both the adaxial (upper) and abaxial (lower) leaf sides into untreated plant parts.


We found that the adaxial leaf surface absorbed and translocated more foliar-applied P away from the treated leaf than the abaxial surface, likely related to the higher abundance of trichomes and stomata present on that side of the leaf. The recovery of the foliar-applied fertiliser varied with rate and timing of application; ranging from <30 % to as much as 80 % of the adaxial-applied fertiliser translocated from the treated leaf into the wheat ear.


This study demonstrated that the differences in surface morphological features between leaf sides influenced the combined absorption and subsequent translocation of foliar-applied P in the above ground plant parts. This is due to a direct effect on the foliar pathway and/or due to differences in wettability affecting both the leaf coverage and drying time of fertilisers on the leaves. Although foliar fertilisation in this study contributed less than 10 % of the total P in the plant, it provided a more efficient pathway for P fertilisation than soil-applied P.


Foliar uptake Foliar translocation Phosphorus Adaxial Abaxial Wheat Radiotracer 



The authors thank Craig Priest for assistance with contact angle measurements and advice on leaf wettability. The authors thank Caroline Johnston for technical assistance and Paula Guzman for comments on the manuscript. We would also like to acknowledge Adelaide Microscopy for use of the SEM and DIC Microscopes and technical assistance from Gwen Mayo. C Peirce thanks the Grains Research and Development Corporation for their Grains Industry Research Scholarship, The Commonwealth Hill Trust for their Commonwealth Hill Scholarship and the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation (USA) for financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. E. Peirce
    • 1
    Email author
  • T. M. McBeath
    • 1
    • 2
  • V. Fernández
    • 3
  • M. J. McLaughlin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Agriculture, Food and WineThe University of AdelaideGlen OsmondAustralia
  2. 2.Agriculture Flagship, CSIRO Glen OsmondAustralia
  3. 3.Genetics and Eco-physiology Research Group, School of Forest EngineeringTechnical University of MadridMadridSpain

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