Phosphite (Phi) may potentially supply phosphorus (P) nutrition to plants and is widely marketed as a super P fertilizer for many crops. This study investigated the effects of Phi on growth and P nutrition in spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.). High-rate foliar application experiments designed to evaluate the phytotoxicity and P nutritional potential of different Phi formulations by foliar application at two rates (0.15 and 0.3% P2O5) showed that all Phi formulations did not improve plant growth under different available P-soils, but rather significantly decreased shoot dry weight (DW) at the higher rate. In two other soil and hydroponic experiments, Phi was foliar applied at a low rate (0.05% P2O5) and root P treatments were combinations of Phi and phosphate (Pi) at different Pi : Phi ratios for a high P level (the soil experiment) or a low P level (the hydroponic experiment). In both experiments, shoot DW decreased markedly as the Pi : Phi ratios decreased from 100:0 to 0:100 and Phi foliar application did not improve plant growth. In the soil experiment, plants grew poorest at 0:100, but grew well when both Phi and Pi were applied at a high rate of 115 mg P pot-1, indicating that at this level Phi had a negative effect on only severely P-deficient plants. Root growth of no Pi-fertilized plants was strongly inhibited by Phi from either root or foliar application. In both experiments, P concentration drastically decreased with decreasing Pi : Phi ratios from 100:0 to 0:100, but increased substantially with foliar application of Phi compared with Pi, suggesting that Phi was absorbed poorly by the roots, but was well absorbed by the leaves compared to Pi. We conclude that Phi cannot be used as a P fertilizer for spinach via either root or foliar applications at low or high levels, and also that Phi has no beneficial effect on the growth of spinach. As Phi is now widely marketed as a P fertilizer for many crops, care should be taken in selecting Phi as a P fertilizer for a given crop.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Soil Science
- Plant Science