Zinc deficiency is a widespread nutritional disorder in plants and occurs in both temperate and tropical climates. In spite of its physiological importance, cytological and ultrastructural changes associated with zinc deficiency are lacking, in part because zinc deficiency is difficult to induce. A method was developed to induce zinc deficiency in pecan (Carya illinoinensis (Wangenh.) C. Koch) using hydroponic culture. Zinc deficiency was evaluated in leaves using light and electron microscopy. Zinc deficiency symptoms varied with severity ranging from interveinal mottling, overall chlorosis, necrosis, and marginal curving. Zinc deficient leaves were thinner, and palisade cells were shorter, wider, and had more intercellular spaces than zinc sufficient leaves. Cells in zinc deficient leaves had limited cytoplasmic content and accumulated phenolic compounds in vacuoles. Extensive starch accumulation was observed in chloroplasts. This work represents the first detailed microscopic evaluations of zinc deficiency in leaves, and provides insight on how zinc deficiency affects leaf structure and function.
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