The siderophore rhizoferrin, produced by the fungus Rhizopus arrhizus, was previously found to be as an efficient Fe source as Fe-ethylenediamine-di(o-hydroxphenylacetic acid) to strategy I plants. The role of this microbial siderophore in Fe uptake by strategy II plants is the focus of this research. Fe-rhizoferrin was found to be an efficient Fe source for barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and corn (Zea mays L.). The mechanisms by which these Gramineae utilize Fe from Fe-rhizoferrin and from other chelators were studied. Fe uptake from 59Fe-rhizoferrin, 59Fe-ferrioxamine B, 59Fe-ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, and 59Fe-2[prime]-deoxymugineic acid by barley plants grown in nutrient solution at pH 6.0 was examined during periods of high (morning) and low (evening) phytosiderophore release. Uptake and translocation rates from Fe chelates paralleled the diurnal rhythm of phytosiderophore release. In corn, however, similar uptake and translocation rates were observed both in the morning and in the evening. A constant rate of the phytosiderophore's release during 14 h of light was found in the corn cv Alice. The results presented support the hypothesis that Fe from Fe-rhizoferrin is taken up by strategy II plants via an indirect mechanism that involves ligand exchange between the ferrated microbial siderophore and phytosiderophores, which are then taken up by the plant. This hypothesis was verified by in vitro ligand-exchange experiments.