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  Section: Plant Nutrition » Macronutrients » Phosphorus
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Phosphorus Functions in Plants

  Historical Information
  Phosphorus Functions in Plants
  Nature and Transformations of Soil Phosphorus
Diagnosing Phosphorus Deficiency
  Visual Symptoms of Deficiency and Excess
  Tissue Testing for Phosphorus
  Soil Testing for Phosphorus
Factors Affecting Management of Phosphorus Fertilization
  Crop Response to Phosphorus
  Soil Water
  Soil Temperature
  Sources of Phosphorus
  Timing of Application of Phosphorus Fertilizers
  Placement of Phosphorus Fertilizers
  Foliar-Applied Phosphorus Fertilization
  Fertilization in Irrigation Water

Phosphorus is utilized in the fully oxidized and hydrated form as orthophosphate. Plants typically absorb either H2PO4- or HPO42-, depending on the pH of the growing medium. However, under certain conditions plants might absorb soluble organic phosphates, including nucleic acids. A portion of absorbed inorganic phosphorus is quickly combined into organic molecules upon entry into the roots or after it is transported into the shoot.

Phosphate is a trivalent resonating tetraoxyanion that serves as a linkage or binding site and is generally resistant to polarization and nucleophilic attack except in metal-enzyme complexes (9). Orthophosphate can be condensed to form oxygen-linked polyphosphates. These unique properties of phosphate produce water-stable anhydrides and esters that are important in energy storage and transfer in plant biochemical processes. Most notable are adenosine diphosphate and triphosphate (ADP and ATP). Energy is released when a terminal phosphate is split from ADP or ATP.

The transfer of phosphate molecules to ATP from energy-transforming processes and from ATP to energy-requiring processes in the plants is known as phosphorylation. A portion of the energy derived from photosynthesis is conserved by phosphorylation of ADP to yield ATP in a process called photophosphorylation. Energy released during respiration is similarly harnessed in a process called oxidative phosphorylation. Beyond their role in energy-transferring processes, phosphate bonds serve as important linkage groups. Phosphate is a structural component of phospholipids, nucleic acids, nucleotides, coenzymes, and phosphoproteins. Phospholipids are important in membrane structure. Nucleic acids of genes and chromosomes carry genetic material from cell to cell. As a monoester, phosphorus provides an essential ligand in enzymatic catalysis. Phytic acid, the hexaphosphate ester of myo-inositol phosphate, is the most common phosphorus reserve in seeds. Inorganic and organic phosphates in plants also serve as buffers in the maintenance of cellular pH.

Total phosphorus in plant tissue ranges from about 0.1 to 1%. Bieleski (10) suggests that a typical plant might contain approximately 0.004% P as deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), 0.04% P as ribonucleic acid (RNA), 0.03% as lipid P, 0.02 % as ester P, and 0.13% as inorganic P.


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