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Phytotoxicity of aluminium to wheat plants in high-pH solutions

G. Ma, P. Rengasamy and A. J. Rathjen

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 43(5) 497 - 501
Published: 03 June 2003


Phytotoxicity of aluminium in acid soils is well known. At pH ≥6.3, aluminate [Al(OH)4] is the principal hydroxo-aluminium species in soil solutions; however, its phytotoxicity has not received much attention. Sodic subsoils in Australia are generally alkaline and have pH above 9. During our survey of 8 subsoils in South Australia, we found aluminate ions at concentrations greater than 0.8 mg/L (29.7 μmol/L of aluminium) in soil solutions when pH was greater than 9, with corresponding high uptake of aluminium by wheat plants. We studied the phytotoxicity of aluminium to wheat plants in solution culture by maintaining the pH of alkaline solutions at 9.2.

Relative root lengths of wheat plants, compared with those in reverse-osmosis deionised water, were significantly reduced in alkaline solutions and CO2-free air indicated toxicity of hydroxy, carbonate and bicarbonate ions. Further reduction of root lengths due to aluminate toxicity was also evident. Relative root lengths of wheat plants, when comparing between +aluminium and –aluminium treatments, were reduced up to 50% in alkaline solutions containing as low as 1 mg/L of aluminium. Aluminium accumulated mainly in the roots, thereby reducing their growth. In bicarbonate solutions, aluminium toxicity under alkaline pH was highly significant (P<0.001). However, at the same level of added aluminium in carbonate solutions, relative root length was not reduced. This study concludes that when aluminium species are present at a concentration of about 1 mg/L in soil solutions with pH greater than 9, the growth of wheat plants could be significantly affected.

© CSIRO 2003

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