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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 6, p. 1919-1926
    Received: Aug 1, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): steve.mcgrath@bbsrc.ac.uk


Phytoremediation of Heavy Metal–Contaminated Soils

  1. E. Lombi,
  2. F.J. Zhao,
  3. S.J. Dunham and
  4. S.P. McGrath *
  1. Agriculture and Environment Division, IACR-Rothamsted, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK


A pot experiment was conducted to compare two strategies of phytoremediation: natural phytoextraction using the Zn and Cd hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens J. Presl & C. Presl versus chemically enhanced phytoextraction using maize (Zea mays L.) treated with ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). The study used an industrially contaminated soil and an agricultural soil contaminated with metals from sewage sludge. Three crops of T. caerulescens grown over 391 d removed more than 8 mg kg−1 Cd and 200 mg kg−1 Zn from the industrially contaminated soil, representing 43 and 7% of the two metals in the soil. In contrast, the high concentration of Cu in the agricultural soil severely reduced the growth of T. caerulescens, thus limiting its phytoextraction potential. The EDTA treatment greatly increased the solubility of heavy metals in both soils, but this did not result in a large increase in metal concentrations in the maize shoots. Phytoextraction of Cd and Zn by maize + EDTA was much smaller than that by T. caerulescens from the industrially contaminated soil, and was either smaller (Cd) or similar (Zn) from the agricultural soil. After EDTA treatment, soluble heavy metals in soil pore water occurred mainly as metal–EDTA complexes, which were persistent for several weeks. High concentrations of heavy metals in soil pore water after EDTA treatment could pose an environmental risk in the form of ground water contamination.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:1919–1926.