In symbiotically-grown legumes, rhizosphere acidification may be caused by a high cation/anion uptake ratio and the excretion of organic acids, the relative importance of the two processes depending on the phosphorus nutritional status of the plants. The present study examined the effect of P deficiency on extrusions of H(+) and organic acid anions (OA(-)) in relation to uptake of excess cations in N(2)-fixing white lupin (cv. Kiev Mutant). Plants were grown for 49 days in nutrient solutions treated with 1, 5 or 25 mmol P m(-3) Na(2)HPO(4) in a phytotron room. The increased formation of cluster roots occurred prior to a decrease in plant growth in response to P deficiency. The number of cluster roots was negatively correlated with tissue P concentrations below 2.0 g kg(-1) in shoots and 3 g kg(-1) in roots. Cluster roots generally had higher concentrations of Mg, Ca, N, Cu, Fe, and Mn but lower concentrations of K than non-cluster roots. Extrusion of protons and OA(-) (90% citrate and 10% malate) from roots was highly dependent on P supply. The amounts of H(+) extruded per unit root biomass decreased with time during the experiment. On the equimolar basis, H(+) extrusion by P-deficient plants (grown at 1 and 5 mmol P m(-3)) were, on average, 2-3-fold greater than OA(-) exudation. The excess cation content in plants was generally the highest at 1 mmol P m(-3) and decreased with increasing P supply. The ratio of H(+) release to excess cation uptake increased with decreasing P supply. The results suggest that increased exudation of OA(-) due to P deficiency is associated with H(+) extrusion but contributes only a part of total acidification.