Foliar phosphite application has minor phytotoxic impacts across a diverse range of conifers and woody angiosperms

TitleFoliar phosphite application has minor phytotoxic impacts across a diverse range of conifers and woody angiosperms
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsScott, P., Bader M. K., & Williams N. M.
JournalPhysiol Plant
Date Published2016
KeywordsAngiosperms, Annual Report 2015-16, Chlorophyll, Coniferophyta, Fluorescence, Phosphites/adverse effects, Photosystem II Protein Complex/metabolism, Plant Diseases, Plant Stomata, Plant Transpiration, Trees

Phytophthora plant pathogens cause tremendous damage in planted and natural systems worldwide. Phosphite is one of the only effective chemicals to control broad-scale Phytophthora disease. Little work has been done on the phytotoxic effects of phosphite application on plant communities especially in combination with plant physiological impacts. Here, we tested the phytotoxic impact of phosphite applied as foliar spray at 0, 12, 24 and 48 kg a.i. ha(-1) . Eighteen-month-old saplings of 13 conifer and angiosperm species native to New Zealand, and two exotic coniferous species were treated and the development of necrotic tissue and chlorophyll-a-fluorescence parameters (optimal quantum yield, Fv /Fm ; effective quantum yield of photosystem II, PhiPSII ) were assessed. In addition, stomatal conductance (gs ) was measured on a subset of six species. Significant necrosis assessed by digital image analysis occurred in only three species: in the lauraceous canopy tree Beilschmiedia tawa (8-14%) and the understory shrub Dodonaea viscosa (5-7%) across phosphite concentrations and solely at the highest concentration in the myrtaceous pioneer shrub Leptospermum scoparium (66%). In non-necrotic tissue, Fv /Fm , PhiPSII and gs remained unaffected by the phosphite treatment. Overall, our findings suggest minor phytotoxic effects resulting from foliar phosphite application across diverse taxa and regardless of concentration. This study supports the large-scale use of phosphite as a management tool to control plant diseases caused by Phytophthora pathogens in plantations and natural ecosystems. Long-term studies are required to ascertain potential ecological impacts of repeated phosphite applications.