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As a micronutrient, chloride is needed in small amounts, but a greater amount than other micronutrients.
Dr. Ray Ward, owner of Ward Laboratories in Kearney, Neb., feels chloride plays a significant role in plant development, even though it’s classified as a micronutrient. “Its importance has often been overlooked,” Ward says.
Plants intake chloride as the negatively charged Cl- ion.
“Chloride behaves like other anions in the soil, such as nitrogen and sulfur, and it is relatively mobile,” Ward says. “It doesn’t attach to soil clay particles. It’s free to move with soil and water, making it prone to leaching.
“As a result, irrigated acres are often the first place to look for deficiencies, if irrigation water is low in chloride.”
Chloride isn’t found in any organic compounds in plants, yet it plays key roles in photosynthesis, enzyme activation, water movement within cells, accelerated plant development and maintaining cell turgor.
“Chloride bounces around to help keep charges even in the plant, and transports other nutrients around the plant,” Ward says. Its mobile nature and negative charge allow chloride to interact with and maintain proper electrical charge with the cations of Ca+, K+, Mg+ and NH4+.
Deficiencies vary by plant species and variety or hybrid, but commonly appear as irregular leaf spotting that resembles a disease.
Soil and plant tissue tests are available to identify chloride needs. Chloride isn’t a problem in many states because of all of the potash fertilizer (KCl) that is applied, and farmers…