New information on plant nutrient response could improve fertilization strategies

Green is an almost universal color associated with plants and for good reason. Green pigment chlorophyll is essential for the ability of plants to generate food, but what if they don’t have enough?

A new paper from Carnegie, Michigan State University and France’s National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment reveals complex, interdependent nutritional responses that underlie a life-threatening, low-chlorophyll condition called chlorosis. which is associated with an anemic, yellow appearance.

Their findings could introduce more environmentally friendly farming practices, using fewer fertilizers and fewer water resources.

Photosynthesis is the complex biochemical process by which plant cells convert solar energy into chemical energy, which is then used to fix carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into sugar molecules. It occurs inside highly specialized plant cell organs called chloroplasts.

Nutrients accumulate in chloroplasts and are essential for optimal functioning. The research team, led by Hatem Rouached of MSU and including Sue Rhee, Hye-In Nam, Yanniv Dorone, Sophie Clowez and Kangmei Zhao of Carnegie, found that a balance of iron and phosphorus is needed to prevent chlorosis.

“Experts have long believed that low iron is the only cause of chlorosis, and farmers have often applied iron to combat yellowing of leaves,” said Rhee. “But recent work has shown that other nutrients play a role in producing this anemic reaction.”

To better understand what chlorotic leaves do, the researchers looked at the response to several nutrients together, rather than one at a time.

They found that plants with iron deficiency-induced chlorosis would turn yellow and photosynthetic activity would be affected, as expected. However, when the nutrient phosphorus was removed, the leaves of the plant began to accumulate chlorophyll and turned green again.

The explanation for this unexpected response is the signaling between the chloroplast, where photosynthesis takes place, and the cell nucleus, where its genetic code is stored.

Interdisciplinary analyzes have shown that the ability of the nucleus to regulate gene expression in response to low iron levels depends on the availability of phosphorus. This type of complex stratification of nutritional responses shows that there is much more to learn about the communication channels between these two essential plant organs.

The team’s findings could have implications for food crop resilience, especially crucial in a changing climate.

“We need to rethink fertilizer management, for example,” Rouached said. “If we take actions that do not take into account the way nutrients interact with each other, we potentially create conditions that cause plants to fail. It is essential that we correct this thinking by moving forward for the benefit of global food production. ” New information on plant nutrient response could improve fertilization strategies

Back to top button