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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Toxicity of Zinc and Copper to Brassica Species: Implications for Phytoremediation


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 26 No. 3, p. 776-781
    Received: May 31, 1996

    * Corresponding author(s): lvk1@cornell.edu
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  1. Stephen D. Ebbs and
  2. Leon V. Kochian *
  1. U.S. Plant, Soil, and Nutrition Laboratory, USDA-ARS, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY 14853.



The toxicity of Zn and Cu in three species from the genus Brassica was examined to determine if these plants showed sufficient tolerance and metal accumulation to be used to phytoremediate a site contaminated with these two heavy metals. Hydroponically grown 12-d-old plants of Brassica juncea, B. rapa, and B. napus were grown for an additional 14 d in the presence of either elevated Zn (6.5 mg L−1), Cu (0.32 mg L−1), or Zn+Cu to quantify the toxic effects of these metals on several different growth parameters. With few exceptions, both root and shoot dry weight for all three species decreased significantly in the presence of heavy metals. Cu inhibited lateral root elongation in B. rapa, B. napus, and, to a lesser extent, B. juncea, while Zn tended to decrease only lateral root diameter. Both metals reduced shoot Fe and Mn concentrations in all three Brassica spp. to levels associated with Fe and Mn deficiencies. These deficiencies, however, did not correlate with observed patterns of leaf chlorosis. Nonetheless, heavy metal-induced inhibition of Fe and Mn accumulation may have been a significant factor in reducing plant growth. In terms of heavy metal removal, the Brassica spp. were more effective at removing Zn from the nutrient solution than Cu. The extent of Zn and Cu removal was reduced in the presence of both metals, as compared to the single heavy metal treatments. The implications of these results for phytoremediation are discussed.

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