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Keywords:

  • Cotyledons;
  • Glycine max;
  • seedling development;
  • seed reserves;
  • soybean;
  • sulphur;
  • sulphur mobilization;
  • sulphur pools

Soybean seeds (Glycine max L. cv, Stephens) contain a large amount of sulphur (ca 40 μ mol seed−1), mostly in the insoluble fraction in the cotyledons. During germination in nutrient solution lacking sulphur the amount of insoluble sulphur decreases to very low levels. This is accompanied by a transitory increase in the pool of soluble sulphur which then declines. All of the sulphur lost from the cotyledons is quantitatively recovered in the seedling. In the short term, the root and the stem are the most important sinks for sulphur from the cotyledons but as growth proceeds the shoot becomes the dominant sink for remobilized sulphur. Within the shoot most of the sulphur is recovered in leaves L1 and L2. The growth of L3 and, to a lesser extent, L2, was retarded due to sulphur insufficiency. The cotyledons of plants treated with 20 μM sulphate also exhibited mobilization of sulphur from the insoluble fraction except that the maximum rate of loss of sulphur occurred somewhat later. Plants grown with sulphate exhibited a net gain of sulphur and did not exhibit sulphur insufficiency. In these plants, endogenous sulphur from the cotyledons was directed into L1–L3 and this sulphur remained within these leaves for the duration of the experiment. The delivery of exogenous sulphur (supplied as [35S]sulphate via the roots) to the leaves increased with leaf number. In leaves L1–L3, the level of exogenous sulphur in any one leaf declined with time, indicating that this sulphur was remobilized and did not mix with the sulphur derived from the cotyledons. It was concluded that the cotyledons are an important source of sulphur to support early plant growth and development of soybean.