Chelate assisted phytoextraction of heavy metals from soil. Effect, mechanism, toxicity, and fate of chelating agents
ABSTRACT The low-cost, plant-based phytoextraction technique has often been described as a promising technique to remediate heavy metal contaminated agricultural land. The application of chelating agents has shown positive effects in increasing the solubility of heavy metals in soil and therefore in enhancing phytoextraction. This paper gives an overview of the chelating agents applied in recent studies. Various synthetic aminopolycarboxylic acids, such as ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid, and natural ones such as, ethylene diamine disuccinate and nitrilotriacetic acid, are described. Additionally, results of the application of natural low molecular weight organic acids, such as citric and tartaric acid are given. The effectiveness of these different chelating agents varies according to the plant and the heavy metals used. Furthermore, a focus is laid on the chelating agents fate after application and on its toxicity to plants and soil microorganisms, as well as it degradation. The rate of degradation is of great importance for the future of chelate assisted phytoextraction as it has a direct impact on the leaching probability. An effective prevention of leaching will be crucial for the acceptance and the economic breakthrough of enhanced phytoextraction, but a satisfactory solution to this key issue has so far not been found. Possibly further experiments in the field of enhanced phytoextraction will be able to solve this major problem, but over decades various greenhouse experiments and recently field experiments have resulted in different observations. Therefore, it is questionable if further research in this direction will lead to a promising solution. Phytoextraction has possibly reached a turning point in which it should distance itself from chelate assisted phytoextraction and focus on alternative options.