The yield and zinc (Zn) content response of faba bean (Vicia faba L.), chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), lentil (Lens culinaris Medik.) and wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) to applications of Zn fertilizer was compared in a glasshouse experiment using two alkaline soils from southwestern Australia. Comparative Zn requirements were determined from yields of 46-day-old dried shoots when no Zn fertilizer was applied the amount of Zn required to produce the same percentage of the maximum (relative) yield of dried shoots, and the Zn content of dried shoots (Zn concentration multiplied by yield of dried shoots). The concentration of Zn in youngest tissue and in dried shoots was used to determine critical concentrations for Zn in tissue. Faba bean used indigenous soil Zn more effectively than chickpea, followed by wheat and then lentil. The Zn requirement was lowest for faba bean, and increased in the order faba bean <chickpea <wheat <lentil. Zinc concentration in dried youngest tissue and in dried shoots increased with an increase in the amount of added Zn. The critical Zn concentration in the youngest tissue, associated with 90% of the relative yield, was (mg Zn kg(-1)): 25 for lentil, 18 for faba bean, 17 for chickpea and 12 for wheat; corresponding values for dried whole tops (mg Zn kg(-1)) were: 30 for lentil, 19 for faba bean, 17 for chickpea, and 20 for wheat. Information on comparative responses of the grain legumes to Zn additions relative to wheat, and critical tissue test values, will aid in the fertilizer management of Zn in cool-season grain legumes in the southwestern Australian farming systems.