The effect of silicon on manganese tolerance of bean plants (Phaseolus vulgaris L. var. ‘Red Kidney’) grown in water culture was studied at different levels of manganese supply. Without silicon, growth depression and toxicity symptoms occurred already at 5 × 10−4 mM Mn in the nutrient solution. After addition of Aerosil (0.75 ppm Si), the plants tolerated 5 × 10−3 mM Mn and, at a higher silicon supply of 40 ppm, as much as 10−2 mM Mn in the nutrient solution without any growth depression. This increase in manganese tolerance was not caused by a depressing effect of silicon on uptake or translocation of manganese but rather by an increase in the manganese tolerance of the leaf tissue. In absence of silicon, 100 ppm Mn was already toxic for the leaf tissue, whereas with a supply of 40 ppm Si, this ‘critical level’ in the leaves was increased to more than 1000 ppm Mn. At lower manganese levels in the leaf tissue, a molar ratio Si/Mn of 6 within the tissue was sufficient to prevent manganese toxicity. Above 1000 ppm Mn, however, even a much wider Si/Mn ratio (> 20) could not prevent growth depression by manganese toxicity. With54Mn and autoradiographic studies, it could be demonstrated that, in absence of silicon, even at optimal manganese supply (10−4 mM), the distribution of manganese within the leaf blades was inhomogeneous and characterized by spot-like accumulations. In presence of silicon, however, the manganese distribution was homogeneous in the lower concentration range of manganese and still fairly homogeneous in the high concentration range. This effect of silicon on manganese distribution on the tissue level was also reflected on the cellular level. In the presence of silicon, a higher proportion of the leaf manganese could be found in the press sap,i.e., had been transported into the vacuoles, than in the absence of silicon. The increase in manganese tolerance of bean leaves by silicon therefore seems to be primarily caused by the prevention of local manganese accumulation within the leaf tissue which leads to local disorders of the metabolism and, correspondingly, growth depression.
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