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Rhizotoxicity of aluminate and polycationic aluminium at high pH

Peter M. Kopittke1, Neal W. Menzies1 and F. Pax C. Blamey2

1The University of Queensland, School of Land and Food Sciences, St Lucia, Qld 4072, Australia. Email:
Department of Global Agricultural Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-8657, Japan.


Although monomeric Al species are often toxic in acidic soils, the effects of the aluminate ion (Al(OH)4-) on roots grown in alkaline media are still unclear. Dilute, alkaline (pH 9.5) nutrient solutions were used to investigate the effects of Al(OH)4- on root growth of mungbean (Vigna radiata L.). Root growth was reduced by 13 % after 3 d growth in solutions with an Al(OH)4- activity of 16 μM and no detectable polycationic Al (Al13). This decrease in root growth was associated with the formation of lesions on the root tips (due to the rupturing of the epidermal and outer cortical cells) and a slight limitation to root hair growth (particularly on the lateral roots). When roots displaying these symptoms were transferred to fresh Al(OH)4- solutions for a further 12 h, no root tip lesions were observed and root hair growth on the lateral roots improved. The symptoms were similar to those induced by Al13 at concentrations as low as 0.50 μM Al which are below the detection limit of the ferron method. Thus, Al(OH)4- is considered to be non-toxic, with the observed reduction in root growth in solutions containing Al(OH)4- due to the gradual formation of toxic Al13 in the bulk nutrient solution resulting from the acidification of the alkaline nutrient solution by the plant roots.

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