Zinc deficiency in field-grown pecan trees: changes in leaf nutrient concentrations and structure



BACKGROUND: Zinc (Zn) deficiency is a typical nutritional disorder in pecan trees [Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch] grown under field conditions in calcareous soils in North America, including northern Mexico and south-western United States. The aim of this study was to assess the morphological and nutritional changes in pecan leaves affected by Zn deficiency as well as the Zn distribution within leaves.

RESULTS: Zinc deficiency led to decreases in leaf chlorophyll concentrations, leaf area and trunk cross-sectional area. Zinc deficiency increased significantly the leaf concentrations of K and Ca, and decreased the leaf concentrations of Zn, Fe, Mn and Cu. All nutrient values found in Zn-deficient leaves were within the sufficiency ranges, with the only exception of Zn, which was approximately 44, 11 and 9 µg g−1 dry weight in Zn-sufficient, moderately and markedly Zn-deficient leaves, respectively. Zinc deficiency led to decreases in leaf thickness, mainly due to a reduction in the thickness of the palisade parenchyma, as well as to increases in stomatal density and size. The localisation of Zn was determined using the fluorophore Zinpyr-1 and ratio-imaging technique. Zinc was mainly localised in the palisade mesophyll area in Zn-sufficient leaves, whereas no signal could be obtained in Zn-deficient leaves.

CONCLUSION: The effects of Zn deficiency on the leaf characteristics of pecan trees include not only decreases in leaf chlorophyll and Zn concentrations, but also a reduction in the thickness of the palisade parenchyma, an increase in stomatal density and pore size and the practical disappearance of Zn leaf pools. These characteristics must be taken into account to design strategies to correct Zn deficiency in pecan tree in the field. Copyright © 2012 Society of Chemical Industry