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Frontiers in Plant Science

Supplemental macronutrients and microbial fermentation products improve the uptake and transport of foliar applied zinc in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) plants. Studies utilizing micro X-ray florescence

Shengke Tian, Lingli Lu, Ruohan Xie, Minzhe Zhang, Judith A. Jernstedt, Dandi Hou, Cliff Ramsier and Patrick H. Brown

MOE Key Laboratory of Environment Remediation and Ecological Health, College of Environmental and Resource Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.


Enhancing nutrient uptake and the subsequent elemental transport from the sites of application to sites of utilization is of great importance to the science and practical field application of foliar fertilizers. The aim of this study was to investigate the mobility of various foliar applied zinc (Zn) formulations in sunflower (Helianthus annuus L.) and to evaluate the effects of the addition of an organic biostimulant on phloem loading and elemental mobility. This was achieved by application of foliar formulations to the blade of sunflower (H. annuus L.) and high-resolution elemental imaging with micro X-ray fluorescence (μ-XRF) to visualize Zn within the vascular system of the leaf petiole. Although no significant increase of total Zn in petioles was determined by inductively-coupled plasma mass-spectrometer, μ-XRF elemental imaging showed a clear enrichment of Zn in the vascular tissues within the sunflower petioles treated with foliar fertilizers containing Zn. The concentration of Zn in the vascular of sunflower petioles was increased when Zn was applied with other microelements with EDTA (commercial product Kick-Off) as compared with an equimolar concentration of ZnSO4 alone. The addition of macronutrients N, P, K (commercial product CleanStart) to the Kick-Off Zn fertilizer, further increased vascular system Zn concentrations while the addition of the microbially derived organic biostimulant “GroZyme” resulted in a remarkable enhancement of Zn concentrations in the petiole vascular system. The study provides direct visualized evidence for phloem transport of foliar applied Zn out of sites of application in plants by using μ-XRF technique, and suggests that the formulation of the foliar applied Zn and the addition of the organic biostimulant GroZyme increases the mobility of Zn following its absorption by the leaf of sunflower.

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