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Keywords:

  • biostimulant;
  • fertilizer;
  • fungicide;
  • phosphate;
  • phosphite

Abstract

Phosphite (inline image; Phi), a reduced form of phosphate (inline image; Pi), is widely marketed as either a fungicide or fertilizer or sometimes as a biostimulant. This is confusing for both distributors and growers. The present paper explores data from various studies to clarify that Phi does not provide plant P nutrition and thus cannot complement or substitute Pi at any rate. In addition, Phi itself does not have any beneficial effect on the growth of healthy plants, regardless of whether it is applied alone or in combination with Pi at different ratios or different rates. The effect of Phi on plants is not consistent, but is strongly dependent on the Pi status of the plants. In most cases, the deleterious effect of Phi is evident in Pi-starved, but not Pi-sufficient, plants. Plants fertilized with Pi allowing for approximately 80–90% of its maximum growth might still be at risk of the effect. This negative effect becomes more pronounced under more seriously Pi-deficient conditions. Although a number of studies have shown positive crop responses to Phi, these responses are likely to be attributable to the suppression of plant diseases by Phi and/or to Pi formed from oxidation of Phi by microbes. In addition, indirectly providing P by Phi-to-Pi oxidation is not an effective means of supplying P to plants compared with Pi fertilizer. An understanding of these issues will aid the right selection of fertilizer as well as minimize the harmful effects of Phi use on crops.