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Chloride–An Essential Element
Tetra Technologies


Chloride is the most recent addition to the list of essential elements. Although chloride (Cl) is classified as a micronutrient, plants may take up as much chloride as they do secondary elements such as sulfur.

The Functions of Chloride
Factors Affecting Chloride Availability
Chloride Deficiency Symptoms
Chloride Toxicity Symptoms
Using Chloride in a Fertility Program
Application Information

The Functions of Chloride
Chloride is essential for many plant functions.

The primary roles of chloride include:

  • Chloride is important in the opening and closing of stomata. The role of the chloride anion (Cl-) is essential to chemically balance the potassium ion (K+) concentration that increases in the guard cells during the opening and closing of stomata.

  • Chloride also functions in photosynthesis, specifically in the water splitting system.

  • Chloride functions in cation balance and transport within the plant.

  • Chloride diminishes the effects of fungal infections in an as yet undefined way.

  • Chloride competes with nitrate uptake, tending to promote the use of ammonium nitrogen. Lowering nitrate uptake may be a factor in chloride’s role in disease suppression, since high plant nitrates have been associated with disease severity.
Chloride is a critical component in the development of plants.

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Factors Affecting Chloride Availability
Most soil chloride is highly soluble and is found predominantly dissolved in the soil water. Chloride is found in the soil as the chloride ion. Being an anion, it is fully mobile except where held by soil anion exchange sites. In areas where rainfall is relatively high and internal soil drainage is good, it may be leached from the soil profile. Also, where muriate of potash fertilizer is not regularly applied, chloride deficiencies can occur. Atmospheric chloride deposition tends to be rather high along coastal regions and decreases as you progress inland.

Chloride, nitrate, sulfate, borate, and molybdate are all anions in their available forms, and in that form they are antagonistic to each other. Therefore, an excess of one can decrease the availability of another. Little information is available on other specific interactions that may occur.

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Chloride Deficiency Symptoms
Too little chloride in plants can cause a variety of symptoms.

Chloride deficiency symptoms include:  

  • Wilting due to a restricted and highly branched root system, often with stubby tips, and

  • Leaf mottling and leaflet blade tip wilting with chlorosis has also been observed.
In particular, chloride deficiency in cabbage is marked by an absence of the cabbage odor from the plant.

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Chloride Toxicity Symptoms
Too much chloride in plants results in symptoms that are similar to typical cases of salt damage.

Chloride toxicity symptoms include:

  • Leaf margins are scorched and abscission is excessive.

  • Leaf/leaflet size is reduced and may appear to be thickened.

  • Overall plant growth is reduced. Chloride accumulation is higher in older tissue than in newly matured leaves. In conifers, the early symptom is a yellow mottling of the needles, followed by the death of the affected needles.
Identifying toxicity in plants can help avoid long term damage.

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Using Chloride in a Fertility Program
Soil and plant analyses do not routinely include chloride analyses, but most laboratories are able to assay for chloride. Although interpretative data is limited, soil and plant analyses can be useful, especially where specific questions arise. Be aware that insufficiencies do not usually exist where muriate of potash fertilizer is routinely used or in saltwater coastal areas where atmospheric deposition naturally occurs. Hi-Cal™ fertilizer from TETRA is an excellent source of chloride for plants.

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Application Information
In areas where deficiencies are known to exist, 30 to 100 pounds per acre of chloride per year will supply the needs of responsive crops. Response may be improved even further if the application is split. For example, apply 30 pounds per acre of chloride in the fall and 70 to 80 pounds per acre in the spring.

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