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  Section: Plant Nutrition » Macronutrients » Magnesium
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Diagnosis of Magnesium Status in Plants

Historical Information
  Determination of Essentiality
Function in Plants
  Metabolic Processes
  Fruit Yield and Quality
Diagnosis of Magnesium Status in Plants
  Symptoms of Deficiency and Excess
    - Symptoms of Deficiency
    - Symptoms of Excess
  Environmental Causes of Deficiency Symptoms
  Nutrient Imbalances and Symptoms of Deficiency
    - Potassium and Magnesium
    - Calcium and Magnesium
    - Nitrogen and Magnesium
    - Sodium and Magnesium
    - Iron and Magnesium
    - Manganese and Magnesium
    - Zinc and Magnesium
    - Phosphorus and Magnesium
    - Copper and Magnesium
    - Chloride and Magnesium
    - Aluminum and Magnesium
  Phenotypic Differences in Accumulation
  Genotypic Differences in Accumulation
Concentrations of Magnesium in Plants
  Magnesium Constituents
    - Distribution in Plants
    - Seasonal Variations
    - Physiological Aspects of Magnesium Allocation
  Critical Concentrations
    - Tissue Magnesium Concentration Associations with Crop Yields
    - Tabulated Data of Concentrations by Crops
Assessment of Magnesium in Soils
  Forms of Magnesium in Soils
  Sodium Absorption Ratio
  Soil Tests
  Tabulated Data on Magnesium Contents in Soils
    - Soil Types
Fertilizers for Magnesium
  Kinds of Fertilizers
  Effects of Fertilizers on Plant Growth
  Application of Fertilizers
Symptoms of Deficiency and Excess

Symptoms of Deficiency
In a physiological sense, magnesium deficiency symptoms are expressed first as an accumulation of starch in the leaves (49), which may be associated with early reductions in plant growth and decreased allocation of carbohydrates from leaves to developing sinks (50). This process is followed by the appearance of chlorosis in older leaves, patterns of which can be explained by the physiological processes associated with magnesium uptake, translocation, and metabolism in plants (3-5,49). Magnesium is physiologically mobile within the plant. Therefore, if insufficient magnesium is available from the rhizosphere, magnesium can be reallocated from other plant parts and transported through the phloem to the actively growing sinks. Because of this mobility within the plant, symptoms of deficiency will first be expressed in the oldest leaves (Figure 6.1).

Early symptoms of magnesium deficiency may be noted by fading and yellowing of the tips of old leaves (49,51,52), which progresses interveinally toward the base and midrib of leaves, giving a mottled or herringbone appearance (52). In later stages of development, deficiency symptoms may be difficult to distinguish from those of potassium deficiency. Under mild deficiencies, a ‘V’-patterned interveinal chlorosis develops in dicots as a result of magnesium dissociating from the chlorophyll, resulting in chlorophyll degradation. In conifers, minor magnesium deficiency symptoms are browning of older needle tips (0.10% magnesium concentration) and in more severe deficiencies, the enter needle turns brown and senesce (0.07% magnesium concentration) (49,53). In some plants, a reddening of the leaves may occur, rather than chlorosis, as is the case for cotton (Gossypium spp.) (52,54), since other plant pigments may not break down as quickly as chlorophyll. The loss of protein from magnesium-deficient leaves, however, usually results in the loss of plastic pigments from most plants (55). On an individual leaf, as well as on a whole plant basis, deficiency symptoms may begin to appear only on the portions of a leaf or the plant that are exposed to the sun, with the shaded portions of leaves remaining green (49,56). Under severe deficiency symptoms, all lower leaves become necrotic and senesce (28,36) with symptoms of interveinal yellowing progressing to younger leaves (36,56).

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency on (left) pepper (Capsicum annum L.) and (right) cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.)
FIGURE 6.1 Symptoms of magnesium deficiency on (left) pepper (Capsicum annum L.) and (right) cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.).

Magnesium has functions in protein synthesis that can affect the size, structure, and function of chloroplasts (26). The requirement of magnesium in protein synthesis is apparent in chloroplasts, where magnesium is essential for the synthesis and maintenance of proteins in the thylakoids of the chlorophyll molecule (57-59). Hence, the degradation of proteins in chloroplasts in magnesium-deficient plants may lead to loss of chlorophyll as much as the loss of magnesium for chlorophyll synthesis.

On a cellular level, magnesium deficiency causes the formation of granules of approximately 80 nm in diameter in the mitochondria and leads to the disruption of the mitochondrial membrane (60). In the chloroplasts, magnesium deficiency results in reduced and irregular grana and reduced or nonexistent compartmentation of grana (61). Palom⇒ki (53) noted that chloroplasts were rounded and thylakoids were organized abnormally in magnesium-deficient Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) seedlings. In the vascular system, magnesium deficiency may cause swelling of phloem cells and collapse of surrounding cells, collapse of sieve cells, and dilation of proximal cambia and parenchyma cells in conifers (53). These alterations at the cellular level occurred before visual changes were evident and before a detectable decrease in leaf magnesium occurred.

Symptoms of Excess
During the early 1800s, symptoms of 'magnesium' toxicity in plants were described; however, during this time, manganese was called magnesium and magnesium was referred to as magnium or magnesia (3-5). Because of the confusion in nomenclature, early reports regarding magnesium and manganese should be read carefully. At the present time, no specific symptoms are reported directly related to magnesium toxicity in plants. However, relatively high magnesium concentrations can elicit deficiency symptoms of other essential cations. Plant nutrients that are competitively inhibited for absorption by relatively high magnesium concentrations include calcium and potassium and occasionally iron (62). Therefore, symptoms of magnesium toxicity may be more closely associated with deficiency symptoms of calcium or potassium.

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