How do crop plants tolerate acid soils? Mechanisms of aluminum tolerance and phosphorous efficiency

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2004;55:459-93. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.55.031903.141655.


Acid soils significantly limit crop production worldwide because approximately 50% of the world's potentially arable soils are acidic. Because acid soils are such an important constraint to agriculture, understanding the mechanisms and genes conferring tolerance to acid soil stress has been a focus of intense research interest over the past decade. The primary limitations on acid soils are toxic levels of aluminum (Al) and manganese (Mn), as well as suboptimal levels of phosphorous (P). This review examines our current understanding of the physiological, genetic, and molecular basis for crop Al tolerance, as well as reviews the emerging area of P efficiency, which involves the genetically based ability of some crop genotypes to tolerate P deficiency stress on acid soils. These are interesting times for this field because researchers are on the verge of identifying some of the genes that confer Al tolerance in crop plants; these discoveries will open up new avenues of molecular/physiological inquiry that should greatly advance our understanding of these tolerance mechanisms. Additionally, these breakthroughs will provide new molecular resources for improving crop Al tolerance via both molecular-assisted breeding and biotechnology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aluminum / toxicity
  • Crops, Agricultural / drug effects
  • Crops, Agricultural / physiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration*
  • Manganese / pharmacology
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Soil / analysis*


  • Soil
  • Phosphorus
  • Manganese
  • Aluminum