EGU21-3071, updated on 03 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Phosphorus in Aeolian desert dust deposits can be captured, dissolved, and absorbed by plant leaves

Ran Erel1, Sudeep Tiwari1,3, Ilana Shtein2, and Avner Gross3
Ran Erel et al.
  • 1Agricultural Research Organization, Soil, Water and Environmental Sciences, Gilat, Israel (
  • 2Eastern Region Research and Development Center, Ariel, Israel.
  • 3Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.

Phosphorus (P) limitation is prevalent around the world,primarily because most soil P have low bioavailability. In P poor ecosystems, deposition of P-rich desert dust is recognized as a major component of the P cycle. The acknowledged paradigm is that plants acquire P deposited in soil primarily via their roots. We tested whether, and to what extent, plants acquire P directly from dust deposited on their leaves and what are the underlining uptake mechanisms of insoluble P. P-rich dust was applied to P sufficient and P deficient chickpea, maize and wheat plants and was compared to plants which received inert silica powder. Foliar application of dust doubled the growth of P stressed chickpea and wheat, two crops originating near the Syrian Desert. P deficiency enhanced the acquisition of insoluble P through series of leaf modifications that increased foliar dust capture, acidified the leaf surface and, in chickpea, enhanced exudation of P-solubilizing organic acids. In in-situ trials, we demonstrated that the modifications of leaf pH and exudation of oxalic and malic acids substantially promoted P solubilisation from dust.  Foliar responses did not occur in maize and in P sufficient plants which displayed only a marginal response to dust. Our results demonstrate that foliar uptake of P from dust can be an alternative P acquisition pathway in P-deficient plants. Interestingly, the abovementioned foliar responses are comparable to known P uptake root responses. Given that P limitation is almost universal, foliar P uptake pathway will have significant ecological and agricultural implications.

How to cite: Erel, R., Tiwari, S., Shtein, I., and Gross, A.: Phosphorus in Aeolian desert dust deposits can be captured, dissolved, and absorbed by plant leaves, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3071,, 2021.