The unique ability of dried plant residues Azolla to adsorb iron (Fe) was employed to formulate and test an organic Fe biofertilizer. A simplified experimental system was established to examine the effectiveness of Fe-enriched Azolla as a source of Fe for the remedy of Fe-deficient plants. The optimal Fe-enrichment level needed to achieve a complete recovery of starved plant by the Fe-Azolla complex was tested using a bioassay system of hydroponically grown cucumbers. Dried Azolla plants were mixed a with a solution of ferrous sulfate (FeSO4) at pH 2.0, rinsed, and dried to form organic, compact material containing 4% (w/w) Fe bound to Azolla. The Fe-Azolla complex was applied to the nutrient solutions of Fe-deficient cucumber seedlings. Growth rates and development measurements as well as chlorophyll and the Fe-containing catalase activity tests have been performed. The effect of the slowly released Fe in correcting Fe deficiency were followed for three weeks and compared with the efficiency of additions of several synthetic Fe chelates. Iron-starved plants exhibited fast regreening of the chlorotic interveinal tissues after the addition of Fe-Azolla complex to the nutrient solutions. Iron starvation decreased the activity of catalase. Iron-treated-starved plants exhibited recovery of catalase activity compared to the low level activity measured untreated Fe-starved plants. Iron-enriched Azolla treatment was found equivalent to Fe-EDTA and Fe-EDDHA. This study is the first step in our research program aimed to establish the application of Fe-enriched Azolla as a bioagent for the benefit of Fe-deficient crops.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors thank the Vinik Foundation for Soil Research for its financial support.