Published: February 4, 2021 | Last updated: July 5, 2023

What Does Chlorosis Mean?

Chlorosis is a plant disease in which the leaf tissue becomes pale or yellowish due to a lack of chlorophyll. This can lead to the death of the plant as it loses the ability to manufacture carbohydrates through photosynthesis. It is possible to combat the disease with used drilling fluid.

Chlorosis can happen due to different reasons such as poor drainage, damaged or compacted roots, high alkalinity of the soil, and nutrient deficiency in the plant.

Typically the reason for chlorosis is the insufficient supply of nutrients in the plant for the proper synthesis of chlorophyll. The lack of iron (Fe) is the most common nutrient associated with chlorosis.

It can be brought about by a combination of factors including, mineral deficiency such as iron, magnesium, or zinc, unfavorable soil pH for nutrient absorption, waterlogged roots, pesticides and herbicides, and fungal infection.

Plants need iron for the formation of chlorophyll that gives them the green color necessary to produce the food for its growth. It has been shown in studies that drilling fluid increased total Fe uptake in plants and can correct zinc deficiency in corn. The waste water-based drilling fluid can be land farmed and it has been found that controlled application can benefit plant growth.

Drilling fluid contains production water, bentonite clay, formation cuttings, barite, sodium compounds, and synthetic organic polymers. It is extensively used in the oil and gas industry and for trenchless pipeline installation projects and functions as a coolant and lubricant and acts as a carrier for drill cuttings.

Post-use drilling mud is allowed to settle and the cuttings are removed to be safely disposed of as per environmental regulations.


Trenchlesspedia Explains Chlorosis

Chlorosis typically happens when enough nutrients are not available in the leaves to synthesize all the chlorophyll. Some of these nutrient deficiencies can be met by supplying iron, magnesium, or nitrogen compounds in different combinations to the root. Trees with healthy roots grow well as roots carry water and nutrients to other parts of the plant. Damaged roots are evident from the health of the plant and can manifest as poor growth, thinning, chlorosis, defoliation, and crown dieback.

Chlorosis Symptoms

The most common cause of chlorosis is the lack of iron, however, deficiency of zinc and manganese can also be the cause. Chlorosis due to iron deficiency starts on the younger or terminal leaves and works inwards towards the older leaves. Chlorosis due to zinc and magnesium deficiency begins with the older leaves and progresses outwards. Iron is very important for the plant to form chlorophyll and for enzyme functions that manage plant metabolism and respiration. Various factors such as alkalinity, pH, and duration of chlorosis can vary the symptoms.

  • Mild chlorosis begins as a paling of interveinal tissue.
  • Severe chlorosis manifests as yellow color.
  • Affected areas or the entire plant may have stunted growth.
  • Affected areas may fail to flower or fruit.
  • Leaves affected by chlorosis are prone to scorching and disease.
  • Dieback of the affected area can lead to the death of the entire plant.

Managing Chlorosis

Chlorosis can be managed by providing nutrition to the plant by foliar application, trunk application, and soil treatment. It has been found in studies that water-based drilling fluid from natural gas well applications in Weld County, Colorado, improved the dry matter yield of sorghum-sudangrass and corn in the greenhouse by increasing plant-available Fe and Zn.

Drilling fluid at the rate of 5 to 60 g/kg soil led to an increase in plant tissue iron in sorghum-sudangrass but did not appreciably affect the soil pH or increase trace metals.


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