Plant and Soil

, Volume 193, Issue 1–2, pp 85–101 | Cite as

Boron mobility in plants

  • Patrick H. Brown
  • Barry J. Shelp


In the majority of plant species, B distribution between plant organs and the symptoms of B deficiency and toxicity indicate that B has restricted mobility. Nevertheless, B is present in phloem and is retranslocated in phloem, often in sufficient amounts to satisfy the demands of developing sink regions that do not readily transpire. In species that produce significant amounts of polyols in source leaves, boron is readily translocated as a consequence of the formation of B-polyol complexes. Boron is thus unique among the essential plant nutrients in that it has restricted mobility in many plant species and is freely mobile in others. No other element is known to vary so greatly in mobility.

The retranslocation of B has a profound effect on the expression of B deficiency and toxicity symptoms, and the approaches needed to diagnose and correct B imbalances. Examples of the impact of B mobility on B uptake, B diagnosis, B toxicity and the breeding of species for B tolerance, are discussed here and in the relevant chapters of this volume. In the following we provide a summary of current information on the mobility of B in plants and provide insights into the physiological and agronomic consequences of these findings.


Toxicity Plant Species Boron Plant Physiology Plant Nutrient 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Al-Molla R M M 1986 Some physiological aspects of soybean development and yield as affected by boron fertilisation. Diss. Abstr. Int. B 46, 3268.Google Scholar
  2. Anon. 1991 Boron in Agriculture. In Fertilizer Borate Guide. Ed. V M Shorrocks. pp 1-16. US Borax, Rosemont, IL, USA.Google Scholar
  3. Asen S and Davidson O W 1950 The boron distribution in greenhouse rose plants. Proc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 56, 433-437.Google Scholar
  4. Batjer L P, Rogers B L and Thompson A H 1953 “Blossom blast” of pears: an incipient boron deficiency. Proc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 62, 119-122.Google Scholar
  5. Bellaloui N and Brown P H 1997 The relationship between sugar alcohols and boron uptake in tobacco and celery. Plant Physiol. (submitted).Google Scholar
  6. Benson N R, Degman E S and Chmelir I C 1961 Translocation and re-use of boron in broccoli. Plant Physiol. 36, 296-301.Google Scholar
  7. Bieleski R L 1982 Sugar alcohols. In Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology, new series. V13A Plant Carbohydrates. I. Intercellular Carbohydrates. Eds F A Loewus and W Tanner. pp 158-192. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  8. Bourne E J 1958 The polygydric alcohols. Acyclic polyhydric alcohols. Encycl. Plant Physiol. VI. Springer-Verlag, NewYork, USA pp. 345-361.Google Scholar
  9. Bowen J E 1972 Effects of environmental factors on water utilization and boron accumulation and translocation in sugarcane. Plant-Cell Physiol. 13, 703-714.Google Scholar
  10. Brown P H and Hu H 1994 Boron uptake by sunflower, squash and cultured tobacco cells. Physiol. Plant. 91, 435-441.Google Scholar
  11. Brown P H and Hu H 1996 Phloem mobility of boron is species dependent. Evidence for phloem mobility in sorbitol rich species. Ann. Bot. 77, 497-505.Google Scholar
  12. Brown P H, Picchioni G, Jenkin M and Hu H 1992 Use of ICP-MS and 10B to trace the movement of boron in plants and soil. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 23, 2781-2807.Google Scholar
  13. Callan N W, Thompson M M, Chaplin M H, Stebbins R L and Westwood M N 1978 Fruit set of ‘Italian’ prune following fall foliar and spring boron sprays. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 103, 253-257.Google Scholar
  14. Campbell L C, Miller M H and Loneragan J F 1975 Translocation of boron to plant fruits. Aust. J. Plant Physiol. 2, 481-487.Google Scholar
  15. Chaplin M H, Stebbins R L and Westwood M N 1977 Effect of fall-applied boron sprays on fruit set and yield of ‘Italian’ prune. HortScience 12, 500-501.Google Scholar
  16. Crandall P C, Chamberlain J D and Garth J K L 1981 Toxicity symptoms and tissue levels associated with excess boron in pear. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 12, 1047-1057.Google Scholar
  17. DaSilva M C and Shelp B J 1990 Xylem-to-phloem transfer of organic nitrogen in young soybean plants. Plant Physiol. 92, 797- 801.Google Scholar
  18. Delgado A, Benlloch M and Fernandez-Escobar R 1994 Mobilisation of boron in olive trees during flowering and fruit development. HortScience 29, 616-618.Google Scholar
  19. Dye M H, Buchanan L, Dorofaeff F D and Beecroft F G 1983 Dieback of apricot trees following soil application of boron. New Zealand J. Exp. Agric. 11, 331-342.Google Scholar
  20. Eaton F M 1944 Deficiency, toxicity, and accumulation of boron in plants. J. Agric. Res. 69, 237-277.Google Scholar
  21. Eaton F M, McCallum R D and Mayhugh M S 1941 Quality of irrigation waters of the Hollister area of California. US Dept. Agr. Tech. Bull. 746, Washington, D.C., USAGoogle Scholar
  22. El-Motaium R, Hu H and Brown P H 1994 The relative tolerance of six Prunus rootstocks to boron and salinity. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 119, 1169-1175.Google Scholar
  23. Flora L F and Madore M A 1993 Stachyose and mannitol transport in olive (Olea europaea L.) Planta 189, 484-490.Google Scholar
  24. Francois L E 1988 Yield and quality responses of celery and crisp-head lettuce to excess boron. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 113, 538- 542.Google Scholar
  25. Francois L E and Clark P H 1979 Boron tolerance of twenty-five ornamental shrub species. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 104, 319-322.Google Scholar
  26. Grabau L J, Blevins D G and Minor H C 1986 Stem infusions enhance methionine content of soybean storage protein. Plant Physiol. 82, 1013-1018.Google Scholar
  27. Gupta U C 1993a Introduction. In Boron and its Role in Crop Production. Ed. U C Gupta. p 1. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.Google Scholar
  28. Gupta U C 1993b Deficiency, sufficiency, and toxicity levels of boron in crops. In Boron and its Role in Crop Production. Ed. U C Gupta. pp 137-145. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.Google Scholar
  29. Hansen C J 1948 Influence of rootstock on injury from excess boron in French (Agen) prune and President plum. Proc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 51, 239-244.Google Scholar
  30. Hansen C J 1955 Influence of rootstock on injury from excess boron in Nonpareil almond and Elberta peach. Proc. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 65, 128-132.Google Scholar
  31. Hansen P 1974 The effect of boron upon leaf development and growth of the apple cultivar ‘Cox's Orange Pippin’. J. Hort. Sci. 49, 211-216.Google Scholar
  32. Hanson E J 1991a Movement of boron out of tree fruit leaves. HortScience 26, 271-273.Google Scholar
  33. Hanson E J 1991b Sour cherry trees respond to foliar boron applications. HortScience 26, 1142-1145.Google Scholar
  34. Hanson E J and Breen P J 1985 Effects of fall boron sprays and environmental factors on fruit set and boron accumulation in ‘Italian’ prune flowers. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 110, 389-392.Google Scholar
  35. Hanson E J, Chaplin M H and Breen P J 1985 Movement of foliar applied boron out of leaves and accumulation in flower buds and flower parts of ‘Italian’ prune. HortScience 20, 747-748.Google Scholar
  36. Hu H and Brown P H 1994 Localisation of boron in cell walls of squash and tobacco and its association with pectin. Plant Physiol. 105, 681-689.Google Scholar
  37. Hu H, Penn S G, Lebrilla C B and Brown P H 1997 Isolation and characterization of soluble B-complexes in higher plants. Plant Physiol. 113, 649-655.Google Scholar
  38. Johnson F, Allmendinger D F, Miller V L and Dolley D 1955 Fall application of boron spray as a control for blossom blast and twig dieback of pears. Phytopath. 45, 110-114.Google Scholar
  39. Kamali A R and Childers N F 1970 Growth and fruiting of peach in sand culture as affected by boron and a fritted form of trace elements. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 95, 652-656.Google Scholar
  40. Klein I and Weinbaum S A 1985 Foliar application of urea to almond and olive: leaf retention and kinetics of uptake. J. Plant Nutr. 8, 117-129.Google Scholar
  41. Kohl H C Jr and Oertli J 1961 Distribution of boron in leaves. Plant Physiol. 36, 420-424.Google Scholar
  42. Liu L, Shelp B J and Spiers G A 1993 Boron distribution and retranslocation in field-grown broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica). Can. J. Plant Sci. 73, 587-600.Google Scholar
  43. Loescher W H 1987 Physiology and metabolism of sugar alcohols in higher plants. Physiol. Plant. 70, 553-557.Google Scholar
  44. Makkee M, Kieboom A P G and van Bekkum H 1985 Studies on borate esters III. Borate esters of D-mannitol, D-glucitol, D-fructose and D-glucose in water. Recl. Trav. Chim. Pays-Bas. 104, 230-235.Google Scholar
  45. Marentes E, Shelp B J, Vanderpool R A and Spiers G A 1997 Retranslocation of boron in broccoli and lupin during early reproductive growth. Physiol. Plant. (In press).Google Scholar
  46. Marschner H 1995 Mineral Nutrition of Higher Plants, 2nd ed. Academic Press, New York. pp 379-396.Google Scholar
  47. McIrath W J 1965 Mobility of boron in several dicotyledonous species. Bot. Gaz. 126, 27-30.Google Scholar
  48. Nyomora A M S, Brown P H and Freeman M. 1997 Foliar applied boron increases tissue boron concentration and nut set of almond. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. (In press)Google Scholar
  49. Oertli J J 1960 The distribution of normal and toxic amount of boron in leaves of rough lemon. Agron. J. 52, 530-532.Google Scholar
  50. Oertli J J 1993 The mobility of boron in plants. Plant and Soil 155/156, 301-304.Google Scholar
  51. Oertli J J 1994 Non-homogeneity of boron distribution in plants and consequence for foliar diagnosis. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 25, 1133-1147.Google Scholar
  52. Oertli J J and Kohl H C 1961 Some considerations about the tolerance of various plant species to excessive supplies of boron. Soil Sci. 92, 243-247Google Scholar
  53. Oertli J J and Richardson WF 1970 The mechanism of boron immobility in plants. Physiol. Plant. 23, 108-116.Google Scholar
  54. Oertli J J and Roth J A 1969 Boron supply of sugar beet, cotton and soybean. Agron. J. 61, 191-195.Google Scholar
  55. Pate J S 1975 Exchange of solutes between phloem and xylem and circulation in the whole plant. In Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology, new series. Vol. 1, Transport in Plants. I. Phloem Transport. Eds. M H Zimmermann and J A Miburn. pp 451-473. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  56. Penn S G, Hu H, Brown P H and Lebrilla C B 1997 Direct analysis of sugar alcohol borate complexes in plant extracts, by matrix assisted laser desorption fourier transform mass spectrometry (MALDI-FTMS). Anal. Chem. (In press).Google Scholar
  57. Picchioni G A, Weinbaum S A and Brown P H 1995 Retention and the kinetics of uptake and export of foliage-applied, labelled boron by apple, pear, prune, and sweet cherry leaves. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 120, 28-35.Google Scholar
  58. Plouvier V 1963 Distribution of aliphatic polyols and cyclitols. In Chemical plant taxonomy. Ed T Swain. pp 313-336. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  59. Schon M K and Blevins D G 1987 Boron stem infusions stimulate soybean yield by increasing pods on lateral branches. Plant Physiol. 84, 969-971.Google Scholar
  60. Scott L E and Schrader A L 1947 Effect of alternating conditions of boron nutrition upon growth and boron content of grape vines in sand culture. Plant Physiol. 22, 526-537.Google Scholar
  61. Seresinhe P S J W and Oertli J J 1991 Effects of boron on growth of tomato cell suspensions. Physiol. Plant. 81, 31-36.Google Scholar
  62. Shelp B J 1987 The composition of phloem exudate and xylem sap from broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) supplied with NH4+, NO3- or NH4NO3. J. Exp. Bot. 38, 1619-1636.Google Scholar
  63. Shelp B J 1988 Boron mobility and nutrition in broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. Italica). Ann. Bot. 61, 83-91.Google Scholar
  64. Shelp B J 1993 Physiology and biochemistry of boron in plants. In Boron and its Role in Crop Production. Ed. U C Gupta. pp 53-85. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, USA.Google Scholar
  65. Shelp B J and DaSilva M C 1990 Distribution and metabolism of xylem-borne ureido and amino compounds in developing soybean shoots. Plant Physiol. 94, 1501-1511.Google Scholar
  66. Shelp B J and Shattuck V I 1987a Boron nutrition and mobility, and its relation to elemental composition of greenhouse grown root crops. I. Rutabega. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 18, 187-201.Google Scholar
  67. Shelp B J and Shattuck V I 1987b Boron nutrition and mobility, and its relation to hollow stem and the elemental composition of greenhouse grown cauliflower. J. Plant Nutr. 10, 143-162.Google Scholar
  68. Shelp B J, Penner R and Zhu Z 1992a Broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) cultivar response to boron deficiency. Can. J. Plant Sci. 72, 883-888.Google Scholar
  69. Shelp B J, Shattuck V I and Proctor J T A 1987 Boron nutrition and mobility, and its relation to elemental composition of greenhouse grown root crops. II. Radish. Comm. Soil Sci. Plant Anal. 18, 203-219.Google Scholar
  70. Shelp B J, Marentes E, Kitheka A M and Vivekanandan P 1995 Boron mobility in plants. Physiol. Plant. 94, 356-361.Google Scholar
  71. Shelp B J, Stattuck V I, McLellan D and Liu L 1992b Boron nutrition and composition of glucosinolates and soluble nitrogen compounds in two broccoli (Brassica oleracea var. italica) cultivars. Can J. Plant Sci. 72, 889-899.Google Scholar
  72. Shelp B J, Vivekanandan P, Vanderpool R A and Kitheka A M 1996 Translocation and effectiveness of foliar-applied boron in broccoli plants of varying boron status. Plant and Soil 183, 309- 313.Google Scholar
  73. Tammes P M L and van Die J 1966 Studies on phloem exudation from Yucca flaccida Haw. IV. Translocation of macro and micro nutrients by the phloem stream. K. Ned. Akad. Wet. Ser. C Biol. Med. Sci. 65, 677-679.Google Scholar
  74. van Bel A J E 1984 Quantification of the xylem to phloem transfer of amino acids by use of inulin[14C]carboxylic acid as xylem transport marker. Plant Sci. Lett. 35, 81-85.Google Scholar
  75. van Die J and Tammes P M L 1975 Phloem exudation from monocotyledonous axes. In Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology, new series. Eds M H Zimmermann and J A Milburn. Vol. 1, Transport in Plants. I. Phloem Transport. pp 196-222. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar
  76. van Goor B J and van Lune P 1980 Redistribution of potassium, boron, iron, magnesium and calcium in apple trees determined by an indirect method. Physiol. Plant. 48, 21-26.Google Scholar
  77. von Michael G, Wilberg E and Kouhsiahi-Tork K 1969 Durch hohe Luftfeuchtigkeit induzieter Bormangel. Z. Pflanzen. Bodenk. 122, 1-3.Google Scholar
  78. Wallaart AM 1980 Distribution of sorbitol in Rosaceae. Phytochem. 19, 2603-2610.Google Scholar
  79. Woodbridge C G 1955 The boron requirements of stone fruit trees. Can. J. Agric.Sci. 35, 282-286.Google Scholar
  80. Woodbridge C G, Venegas A and Crandall P C 1971 The boron content of developing pear, apple and cherry flower buds. J. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 96, 613-615.Google Scholar
  81. Zimmermann M H and Ziegler H 1975 List of sugars and sugar alcohols in sieve-tube exudates. In Encyclopedia of Plant Physiology. V1. Transport in Plants I. Phloem Transport. Eds. M H Zimmermann and J A Milburn. pp 480-503. Springer-Verlag, New York.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick H. Brown
    • 1
  • Barry J. Shelp
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PomologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Horticultural ScienceUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

Personalised recommendations