Foliar elemental analysis of Brazilian crops via portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry


Foliar analysis is very important for the nutritional management of crops and as a supplemental parameter for soil fertilizer recommendation. The elemental composition of plants is traditionally obtained by laboratory-based methods after acid digestion of ground and sieved leaf samples. This analysis is time-consuming and generates toxic waste. By comparison, portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF) spectrometry is a promising technology for rapid characterization of plants, eliminating such constraints. This worked aimed to assess the pXRF performance for elemental quantification of leaf samples from important Brazilian crops. For that, 614 samples from 28 plant species were collected across different regions of Brazil. Ground and sieved samples were analyzed after acid digestion (AD), followed by quantification via inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) to determine the concentration of macronutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg, and S) and micronutrients (Fe, Zn, Mn, and Cu). The same plant nutrients were directly analyzed on ground leaf samples via pXRF. Four certified reference materials (CRMs) for plants were used for quality assurance control. Except for Mg, a very strong correlation was observed between pXRF and AD for all plant-nutrients and crops. The relationship between methods was nutrient-and crop-dependent. In particular, eucalyptus displayed optimal correlations for all elements, except for Mg. Opposite to eucalyptus, sugarcane showed the worst correlations for all the evaluated elements, except for S, which had a very strong correlation coefficient. Results demonstrate that for many crops, pXRF can reasonably quantify the concentration of macro-and micronutrients on ground and sieved leaf samples. Undoubtedly, this will contribute to enhance crop management strategies concomitant with increasing food quality and food security.


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Foliar analysis, Plant nutrition, Proximal sensors


Borges, C.S., Weindorf, D.C., Carvalho, G.S., Guilherme, L.R.G., Takayama, T., Curi, N., Lima, G.J.E.O., & Ribeiro, B.T.. 2020. Foliar elemental analysis of Brazilian crops via portable x-ray fluorescence spectrometry. Sensors (Switzerland), 20(9).