Authored by: David E. Kopsell , Dean A. Kopsell

Handbook of Plant Nutrition

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9781439881972
eBook ISBN: 9781439881989
Adobe ISBN:


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Chlorine (from the Greek “chloros” meaning yellowish green, which describes the color of the gaseous diatomic molecule it exists as under standard conditions) is a member of the halogen family and is a strong oxidizing agent. Chlorine combines with elements to create chlorides (Winterton, 2000). Chlorine exists predominantly in soils and plants as chloride, one of the most common anions in nature. This anionic form contributes greatly to the behavior of chlorine in the environment and its function in plants (Winterton, 2000). Although plants can take up chloride in amounts of 50–500 ╬╝mol · kg−1, which is similar to macronutrient accumulation, the requirement of chloride for plant growth is considerably lower, clearly establishing it as a micronutrient (Mengel and Kirkby, 1987). Chlorine deficiency in plants seldom is observed in agriculture or nature due to the plentiful supplies of chlorine in the environment and its redistribution from natural occurrences such as rainfall, marine aerosols, and volcanic emissions. Although reports of chloride being beneficial to plant growth date back to 1862, it was not until 1954 that chlorine was proven to be a micronutrient for the growth of plants (Broyer et al., 1954; Hewitt, 1966). Ironically, the essentiality of chlorine resulted from a study of cobalt nutrition in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) where there was increased plant growth when cobalt was supplied as its chloride salt (Broyer et al., 1954). Little concern for chlorine nutrition existed, however, until research in several states of the United States in the 1980s demonstrated that crops grown on soils low in chlorine content responded to chlorine fertilizer applications (Lamond and Leikam, 2002). Even though chlorine has gained the attention of agronomists, much of the focus on chlorine in terms of crop production continues to be over the presence of excessive levels of chloride salts in soils, water, and fertilizers (Xu et al., 2000).

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