Phosphorus (P) is an essential macronutrient for plant growth, development and production. However, little is known about the effects of P deficiency on nutrient absorption, photosynthetic apparatus performance and antioxidant metabolism in citrus. Seedlings of 'sour pummelo' (Citrus grandis) were irrigated with a nutrient solution containing 0.2 mM (Control) or 0 mM (P deficiency) KH.sub.2 PO.sub.4 until saturated every other day for 16 weeks. P deficiency significantly decreased the dry weight (DW) of leaves and stems, and increased the root/shoot ratio in C. grandis but did not affect the DW of roots. The decreased DW of leaves and stems might be induced by the decreased chlorophyll (Chl) contents and CO.sub.2 assimilation in P deficient seedlings. P deficiency heterogeneously affected the nutrient contents of leaves, stems and roots. The analysis of Chl a fluorescence transients showed that P deficiency impaired electron transport from the donor side of photosystem II (PSII) to the end acceptor side of PSI, which showed a greater impact on the performance of the donor side of PSII than that of the acceptor side of PSII and photosystem I (PSI). P deficiency increased the contents of ascorbate (ASC), H.sub.2 O.sub.2 and malondialdehyde (MDA) as well as the activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), ascorbate peroxidase (APX), dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR) and glutathione reductase (GR) in leaves. In contrast, P deficiency increased the ASC content, reduced the glutathione (GSH) content and the activities of SOD, CAT, APX and monodehydroascorbate reductase (MDHAR), but did not increase H.sub.2 O.sub.2 production, anthocyanins and MDA content in roots. Taking these results together, we conclude that P deficiency affects nutrient absorption and lowers photosynthetic performance, leading to ROS production, which might be a crucial cause of the inhibited growth of C. grandis.