Zinc deficiency is not only the cause of low productivity of crops, but it also results in low zinc content in seeds, which leads to poor dietary zinc intake. To study the effect of zinc foliar application on improving plant yield and seed zinc content for human consumption, chickpea plants were raised in refined sand culture with deficient (0.2 µM) and sufficient (1µM) supply of zinc under glass-house conditions. Prior to initiation of the reproductive phase, zinc was applied as 0.1% ZnSO4 foliar spray to both zinc sufficient and deficient plants. The plants exposed to different zinc treatments were studied for pollen and stigma structure and their involvement in fertilization and seed yield. Zinc deficiency induces flower abortion, pollen, and ovule infertility leading to low seed set and ultimately its yield. Foliar application of ZnSO4 to zinc deficient plants at the time of initiation of flowering partially reverses the adverse effect of zinc deficiency on pollen-stigma morphology, pollen fertility, and greatly enhanced seed yield of plants. Zinc foliar application improved not only the boldness and vigor of seeds in zinc-deficient plants, but also the seed zinc content in zinc-deficient seeds as well as the sufficient ones.
Exposure of 10-d-old spinach (Spinacea oleracea L.) plants to excess (500 µM) concentrations of Co, Ni, Cu, Zn and Cd in sand culture inhibited growth, induced toxicity symptoms, oxidative damage and changes in the antioxidant defense system. The severity of the metal-induced effects varied with the metals and the duration of exposure to excess supply of the metals. Each metal induced chlorosis. In addition, excess Co, Ni and Cd also produced metal specific toxic effects. Excess supply of each metal caused lipid peroxidation (TBARS). Their effectiveness in producing oxidative damage was in the order: Ni > Co > Cd > Cu >Zn. Of all the metals, Ni was also most effective in lowering the concentration of the chloroplast pigments (Chl, Car). While each metal increased the concentration of ascorbate and activated the key enzymes of the ascorbate-glutathione cycle, excess Cd and Zn were more effective in this regard. Each metal increased the activity of SOD and POD and decreased the activity of CAT. Enhancement in SOD activity and inhibition of CAT activity suggested high build-up of H2O2, possibly the main cause of oxidative stress, induced in response to excess supply of the heavy metals.