Plant and Soil

, Volume 248, Issue 1–2, pp 229–235 | Cite as

Is Fe deficiency rather than P deficiency the cause of cluster root formation in Casuarina species?

  • El Houssine ZaïdEmail author
  • Moustapha Arahou
  • Hoang G. Diem
  • Rachida El Morabet


When subjected, directly (through nutritional deficiencies) or indirectly (through alkaline constraints leading to such deficiencies) to nutrient deficiencies, certain plants respond by developing special root structures called cluster roots. This phenomenon can be considered as an ecophysiological response to a specific nutrient deficiency enabling plants to enhance nutrient uptake. Experiments conducted on an alkaline and an acid soil showed that Casuarina glauca (Sieber ex Spreng.) produced cluster roots only in the alkaline soil and not in the acid soil. In addition, iron (Fe) and phosphorus (P) deficiencies were examined separately or together to determine their effect on cluster root formation in C. glauca seedlings grown hydroponically. Results from experiments carried out on three Casuarina species (C. glauca, C. cunninghamiana Miq. and C. equisetifolia L.) indicated that Fe is involved in cluster root formation. In nutrient media lacking P but containing Fe, no cluster roots formed while seedlings receiving P and lacking Fe developed cluster roots. When incubated on chrome-azurol S-agar on blue plates (CAS assay), a technique used routinely to detect the production of siderophores by micro-organisms, the root system of Fe-deficient plants exhibited orange halos around cluster roots, indicating production of a ferric-chelating agent. It is concluded that the capacity of cluster roots of C. glauca to chelate Fe allows the plant to grow normally on alkaline soils.

CAS assay Casuarina cluster roots Fe deficiency P deficiency proteoid roots 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • El Houssine Zaïd
    • 1
    Email author
  • Moustapha Arahou
    • 1
  • Hoang G. Diem
    • 2
  • Rachida El Morabet
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity Mohammed V, Rabat-AgdalAvenue Ibn BattoutaMorocco
  2. 2.CNRS, Direction des Relations InternationalesParis Cedex 16France

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