The impact of inorganic ions on sucrose fluxes in the cotyledons and on the pathway of phloem loading was studied in Ricinus communis L. seedlings. The cotyledons were incubated in defined solutions which contained either potassium, sodium, magnesium or calcium as chloride salts, or the sodium salts of sulphate or phosphate. Sucrose uptake from the medium into the cotyledons was only slightly affected by the salts. Sucrose efflux to the medium was increased by phosphate and sulphate and to a lesser extent by sodium and potassium. Phloem loading from the apoplasm and the symplasm was analysed by addition of labelled sucrose to the medium, determination of the specific radioactivity of sucrose in sieve-tube exudate and quantification of export into the seedling axis. Potassium and sodium stimulated the apoplasmic route of phloem loading of sucrose, mostly at the expense of loading from cotyledon sucrose pools. In contrast, sulphate and phosphate strongly inhibited the apoplasmic route whereas the (small) symplasmic flux from the cotyledon sucrose pools was less affected. Magnesium ions inhibited phloem loading by both pathways. The potential of ions in modulating the pathways of sucrose export in day to day operation of plants is discussed.