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The Potential of Corn (Zea mays) for Phytoremediation of Soil Contaminated with Cadmium and Lead

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ABSRACT A study was carried out to investigate the potential of Corn (Zea mays) for phytoremediation of soil contaminated with Cadmium and Lead. Soil samplings of 0-20 cm depth were taken from the Chaharmahal Bakhtiari province in the western of Iran. Corn plantlets were planted in pots containing 3 kg of these soils. The experiment consisted of 9 treatments including soil without cadmium and Lead (T1), soil contaminated with 2 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T2), soil contaminated with 4 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T3), soil contaminated with 8 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T4), soil contaminated with 16 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T5), soil contaminated with 6 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T6), soil contaminated with 12 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T7), soil contaminated with 18 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T8) and soil contaminated with 24 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T9). Samples were taken for testing, after 60 days. Physical and chemical characteristics of soil such as soil texture, cation exchange capacity, pH, electrical conductivity, organic matter and extractable cadmium and lead were measured before and after the test. The evidences provided by this experiment indicated that Corn is an effective accumulator plant for phytoremediation of cadmium and lead polluted soils.
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J. BIOL. ENVIRON. SCI.,
2011, 5(13), 17-22
17
The Potential of Corn (Zea mays) for Phytoremediation of Soil Contaminated with
Cadmium and Lead
Amin Mojiri*
Member of Young Researchers Club, Islamic Azad University, Khorasgan (Isfahan) Branch, Isfahan, IRAN
ABSRACT
A study was carried out to investigate the potential of Corn (Zea mays) for phytoremediation of soil contaminated with Cadmium
and Lead. Soil samplings of 0-20 cm depth were taken from the Chaharmahal Bakhtiari province in the western of Iran. Corn
plantlets were planted in pots containing 3 kg of these soils. The experiment consisted of 9 treatments including soil without
cadmium and Lead (T1), soil contaminated with 2 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T2), soil contaminated with 4 mg/kg
concentration of cadmium (T3), soil contaminated with 8 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T4), soil contaminated with 16
mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T5), soil contaminated with 6 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T6), soil contaminated with 12
mg/kg concentration of Pb (T7), soil contaminated with 18 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T8) and soil contaminated with 24 mg/kg
concentration of Pb (T9). Samples were taken for testing, after 60 days. Physical and chemical characteristics of soil such as soil
texture, cation exchange capacity, pH, electrical conductivity, organic matter and extractable cadmium and lead were measured
before and after the test. The evidences provided by this experiment indicated that Corn is an effective accumulator plant for
phytoremediation of cadmium and lead polluted soils.
Key Words: Cadmium, Corn, Lead, Phytoremediation, Soil
INTRODUCTION
Heavy use of sewage sludge, compost, mining waste, chemical fertilizers and industrial development without
control outputs, resulting accumulation of heavy metals in agricultural lands has been for many years remain
in the soil (Alloway et al. 1991).
The increasing use of wide variety of heavy metals in industries and agriculture has caused a serious
concern of environmental pollution (Sinhal et al. 2010).
Remediation of heavy metals polluted soil could be carried out using physico-chemicals processes such
as ion-exchange, precipitation, reverse osmosis, evaporationand chemical reduction; however, the measures
required external man-made resources and costly (Mangkoedihardjo and Surahmaida 2008).
Phytoremediation is a viable, relatively low-cost approach to removing heavy metals from soil and
groundwater (January 2006).
Phytoremediation is a developing technology that can potentially address the problems of contaminated
agricultural land or more intensely polluted areas affected by urban or industrial activities. Three main
strategies currently exist to phytoextract inorganic substances from soils using plants:(1) use of natural hyper
accumulators; (2) enhancement of element uptake of high biomass species by chemical additions to soil and
plants; and (3) phytovolatilization of elements, which often involves alteration of their chemical form within
the plant prior to volatilization to the atmosphere (McGrath et al. 2002).
Phytoremediation is a promising new method that uses green plants to assimilate or detoxify metals and
organic chemicals. The phytoremediation of metal-contaminated soils offers a low cost method for soil
remediation and some extracted metals may be recycled for value (Chaney et al. 1997). Plants that
accumulate metals to high concentrations are sometimes referred to as ‘‘hyperaccumulators’’ (Visoottiviseth
et al. 2002).
Large areas of land contaminated with Cd were caused by anthropogenic activities such as mining and
mineral processing of metallic ores, waste disposal, phosphate fertilizer application and wastewater
irrigation. Soil Cd contamination is a great threat to human health since Cd is easily extracted by plants from
the environment compared with other non-essential elements, and transferred to human food chain from the
soils (Xiao et al. 2008). Cadmium is a ubiquitous non-essential element that possesses high toxicity and is
easily accumulated from the environment by organisms (Rahimi and Nejatkhan 2010). Restoration of soils
contaminated with potentially toxic metals and metalloids is of major global concern (Shelmerdine et al.
2009).
As public awareness of Pb contamination increases, so have the questions concerning the safety of areas
such as playgrounds, homes, and gardens. The greatest human concern regarding the toxicity or accumulation
of heavy metals is directed towards small children. Their bodies and central nervous systems are developing

*Corresponding author: amin.mojiri@gmail.com
J. BIOL. ENVIRON. SCI.,
2011, 5(13), 17-22
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rapidly and any exposure to Pb, even blood levels as low as 10 μg/dL (0.1 ppm), can cause long-term health
problems within many organ systems and mental and physical impairment (Succuro 2010).
Khodaverdi and Homai (2008) investigated modeling of phytoremediation of soil contaminated with
Cadmium and Lead. Their results showed that the increasing soil contamination with Pb increased
phytoremediation of Pb from soil by Barbarea verna and Spinacia Oleracea L. but increasing soil
contamination with Cd did not change phytoremediation of cadmium from soil by Barbarea verna and
Spinacia Oleracea L.
Cho-Ruk et al. (2006) investigated perennial plants in the phytoremediation of Lead-contaminated soils.
Their results showed that A.philaxeroides had the ability to extract an approximately 1.3-1.8 times greater
amount than P. grandiflora and S. procumbens.
In this study the potential of Corn (Zea mays) for phytoremediation of soil contaminated with Cadmium
and Lead has been investigated.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Site description, Sample preparation
The experiment was carried out at green house. Soil samplings of 0-20 cm depth were taken from
Chaharmahal Bakhtiari province in the western of Iran. Soil samples were allowed to air dry in a green house
at a temperature between 25ºC and 30ºC and were then ground to pass a 2-mm mesh sieve for prepared of
soil samples (Makoi and Verplancke 2010) and Corn plantlets were planted in pots containing 3 kg of these
soils. The experiment consisted of 9 treatments including soil without cadmium and Lead (T1), soil
contaminated with 2 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T2), soil contaminated with 4 mg/kg concentration of
cadmium (T3), soil contaminated with 8 mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T4), soil contaminated with 16
mg/kg concentration of cadmium (T5), soil contaminated with 6 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T6), soil
contaminated with 12 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T7), soil contaminated with 18 mg/kg concentration of Pb
(T8) and soil contaminated with 24 mg/kg concentration of Pb (T9). Samples were taken for testing, after 60
days.
Laboratory determinations
Physical and chemical characteristics of soil such as soil texture, cation exchange capacity (CEC), soil
reaction (pH), electrical conductivity (EC), organic matter (OM), extractable Cadmium and Lead were
measured before and after the test. Soil texture was determined by the Bouyoucos hydrometer method (Gee
and Bauder 1986). Soil pH and EC were measured on 1:1 extract (Soil:Water). Extractable Cadmium and
Lead (Pb) in soil samples were carried out by DTPA in accordance the Standard Methods (APHA 1998). Soil
OM was determined as in Walkley and Black and CEC was determined (ASA 1982).
Statistical analysis
Data will be analyzed using SPSS software. Comparison between the average levels treatments will be
performed by Duncan’s test.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
Soil properties before experiment, comparing the means of Cadmium treatments in soil, comparing the means
of Cadmium treatments in Corn, comparing the means of Lead treatments in soil and comparing the means of
Lead treatments in Corn are shown in Tables 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively.
Table 1. Soil properties before experiment
pH EC
(dSm-) CEC
(me/100g) OM
(%) Clay
(%) Sand
(%) Silt
(%) Fe
(ppm) Cd
(ppm) Pb
(ppm)
Main Soil
6.99 1.11 9.5 0.70 10.00 60.90 29.10 2.50 0 0
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Phytoremediation of Cadmium
As known, the exchangeable form Cd is easily absorbed by plant. In the presence of vegetation, the
exchangeable form Cd was partly removed by plant uptake that accompanied with the intake of nutrition
(Zhang et al. 2009).
Cd-hyperaccumulating plant species, are almost the only ones that can grow in soil solutions containing
Cd concentrations as high as 35 μmol/L (3.9 mg/L) (Brown et al., 1994; Xiao et al., 2008).
A possible explanation could be the exchangeable form Cd in planted soil was the predominant species
for Cd uptake by plant (Zhang et al. 2009). Zhang et al. (2009) expressed: as the phytoextraction of Cd by
maize, the percentage of exchangeable form Cd decreased in the planted soil. Besides, plant root exudates
and rhizosphere microorganisms accelerated the stability process of added Cd in soils, which might make the
exchangeable form transform to other relatively stable forms such as organic form and residual form and
might help reduce the harm of Cd to soil and water environment.
Table 2. Comparing the means of Cd treatments in soil after 60 days
Parameter Treatments
T1 T2 T3 T4 T5
Cd (ppm) 0.00a+0.700b 1.857c 3.415d 14.25e
+ Row means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at 0.05 probability level
Figure 1. Changes of Cadmium in soil
T1, T2, T3, T4 and T5 are treatments 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively
A and B are soils before 60 days and after 60 days, respectively
Table 3. Comparing the means of Cd treatments in corn
Cd (ppm) Corn
Root Shoot
0 (T1) 0a+ 0f
2 (T2) 5.1913b 1.3305g
4 (T3) 8.6906c 2.7917h
8 (T4) 15.4127d 3.5126i
16 (T5) 9.7215e 5.5304j
+ Row means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at 0.05 probability level
J. BIOL. ENVIRON. SCI.,
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Figure 2. Changes of Cadmium in Corn
T1, T2, T3, T4 and T5 are treatments 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, respectively
R and S are Root and Shoot, respectively
According to Tables 2, It was clear that the concentration of Cd significantly decreased in the planted
soil after 60 days culture. Accumulation of cadmium in root is higher than in shoot, this showed that root of
Corn is more active than shoot to phytoremediation of cadmium. This is in line with finding of Zhang et al.
(2009) and Xiao et al. (2008).
Increasing soil contamination to 8 (ppm) increased phytoremediation of cadmium from soil by Corn
but increasing soil contamination to 16 (ppm) decreased phytoremediation of cadmium from soil by Corn.
Phytoremediation of Lead
Water soluble and exchangeable lead are the only fractions readily available for uptake by plants.
Oxyhydroxides, organic, carbonate, and precipitated forms of lead are the most strongly bound to the soil.
The capacity of the soil to adsorb lead increases with increasing pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), organic
carbon content, soil/water Eh (redox potential) and phosphate levels. In the natural setting, lead
hyperaccumulation has not been documented. However, certain plants have been identified which have the
potential to uptake lead (Henry 2000).
Table 4. Comparing the means of Pb treatments in soil after 60 days
Parameter Treatments
T1 T6 T7 T8 T9
Pb (ppm) 0.00a+ 3.64b 7.23c 10.80d 14.17e
+ Row means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at 0.05 probability level
Figure 3. Changes of Lead in soil
T1, T2, T3, T4 and T5 are treatments 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9, respectively
A and B are soils before 60 days and after 60 days, respectively
J. BIOL. ENVIRON. SCI.,
2011, 5(13), 17-22
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Table 5. Comparing the means of Pb treatments in corn
Pb (ppm) Corn
Root Shoot
0 (T1) 0a+ 0f
6 (T6) 4.9845b 1.3005g
12 (T7) 11.6056c 3.0317h
18 (T8) 16.3127d 5.4006i
24 (T9) 19.4015e 6.3124j
+ Row means followed by the same letter are not significantly different at 0.05 probability level
Figure 4. Changes of Lead in Corn
T1, T2, T3, T4 and T5 are treatments 1, 6, 7, 8 and 9, respectively
R and S are Root and Shoot, respectively
According to Tables 4, It was clear that the concentration of extractable Pb significantly decreased in
the planted soil after 60 days culture. It was clear that the concentration of extractable Lead in soil under all
treatments dercreased between 39.2-40.9%.
Accumulation of Pb in root is higher than in shoot, this showed that root of Corn is more active than
shoot to phytoremediation of Lead. This is in line with findings of Parsadoost et al. (2008) and Cho-Ruk
(2006).
CONCLUSIONS
The increasing use of wide variety of heavy metals in industries and agriculture has caused a serious concern
of environmental pollution. Phytoremediation is a developing technology that can potentially address the
problems of contaminated agricultural land or more intensely polluted areas affected by urban or industrial
activities. Corn is an effective accumulator plant for phytoremediation of cadmium and lead polluted soils.
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The earth is currently dealing with a variety of issues and is losing its potential as a result of climate change brought on by increasing industrialization and urbanization. Harmful metals wastes generated by anthropogenic processes such as household, municipal, agricultural, industrial, and military operations penetrate the soil, decreasing its quality and usefulness. Because soil is the foundation of life, it necessitates excellent remediation activity. The problem of soil pollution is no longer being ignored because it is limited or no new land to replace. Therefore, the objective of this review paper is to explore the concepts and promises of basic phytoremediation approaches for heavy metal-contaminated soils. The use of living organisms, particularly plants (phytoremediation), is one of the remediation approaches that is now being used. In comparison to other soil remediation approaches, phytoremediation is an effective and affordable technology that can work with few maintenance costs once established, is suited for vast regions with low to moderate amounts of contaminants, and is ecologically benign. Phytoremediation, on the other hand, is a long-term remediation option, and not all of its remediation procedures are optimal. For example, in the case of phytovolatilization, air pollution may occur, while in the case of phytoextraction, pollutants collected in leaves may be released back into the environment during litterfall. Therefore, future concerns should be directed toward the modification and improvement of phytoremediation technologies that are likely to improve metal-binding abilities in plant tissues and phyto-transform toxic metals. Finally, it is critical to minimize or avoid the release of harmful compounds into the environment, in addition to enhancing and adapting various techniques.
Chapter
Environmental contamination is increasing day by day due to different natural and anthropogenic activities that lead to the soil, water, and food chain contamination. This becomes a major challenge to decontaminate the natural environment. Thus, ultimately the environmental pollutants are being taking tolls from the living being of this planet. There are a lot of potential approaches to remove pollutants from the environmental matrices including the phytoremediation. The phytoremediation is a low-risk and environmentally friendly clean-up method where plants are used to decontaminate the environment. In this chapter, efforts were given to accumulate and synthesize the published research data on phytoremediation technologies with their principles, mechanisms, and application to remove the contaminants from the soil and water environment. Phytoremediation techniques including phytoextraction, phytofiltration, rhizofiltration, phytostabilization, phytodesalination, phytodegradation, phytovolatilization, and phytomining are briefly discussed. Based on the recent literature, organic, inorganic, desalination, and wastewater treatment through phytoremediation techniques were presented with the achieved outcome. Fundamental considering factors such as enrichment factor, bioaccumulation factor, bio-concentration factor, phytodesalination capacity were also presented here. A comprehensive spectrum of potentially applicable phytoremediators was listed in this chapter which might open up the opportunity to advance further research in this particular remediation technique. Moreover, this chapter also gives an overview of the advantages and limitations of the phytoremediation techniques. In addition, post-harvest safe management of phytoremediator plants was also discussed. This chapter might be a good source of scientific evidence on phytoremediation that will be useful for the further advancement of research in this particular field.
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Metal-tolerant hyperaccumulator plants may be useful to phytoremediate contaminated soils. To evaluate agronomic management practices to maximize phytoremediation, two metallophytes, Thlaspi caerulescens J. and C. Presl (Zn hyperaccumulator) and bladder campion [Silene vulgaris (Moench) Garcke L.] (an indicator) were compared to 'Rutgers' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) in a pot study to assess Zn and Cd uptake patterns in relation to soil pH. Soils used for the study were gathered at three different sites in the vicinity of an old Zn smelter in Palmerton, PA, and contained 48 000, 4100, and 2100 mg kg-1 Zn and 1020, 37.4, and 35.2 mg kg-1 Cd, respectively. Each soil was adjusted to three pH levels ranging from 5.06 to 7.04. Thlaspi caerulescens showed much greater tolerance to the metals than the other plants (up to 18 455 mg kg-1 Zn and 1020 mg kg-1 Cd dry shoots without yield reduction) with metal stress apparent only in the low pH treatments of the two most contaminated soils. In all treatments except for the farm soil (least contaminated) at pH 5.06, T. caerulescens had higher concentrations of both Zn and Cd than bladder campion and tomato. Thlaspi caerulescens was also more effective at translocating both Zn and Cd from soil to plant shoots. A variety of soil extractions were used to evaluate the correlation of shoot metal concentrations with quantitative measures of 'available' soil metals. Concentrations of Cd measured in several common extractants (DTPA, water, 0.01 M Ca(NO3)2, and 1.0 M NH4NO3) were significantly correlated with Cd concentrations in tissue of each plant. Shoot Zn concentrations of bladder campion and tomato were significantly correlated with Zn extracted by the neutral salt extractants for all soils. For T. caerulescens, the neutral salt extractable Zn was significantly correlated with shoot Zn only in the two more contaminated soils. No extractant predicted shoot Zn concentration for T. caerulescens in the least contaminated soil.
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In this experiment, three local perennial plant species, Alternanthera philoxeroides , Sanvitalia procumbens and Portulaca grandiflora , were examined for their ability to uptake lead from lead contaminated soils (75 mg kg<sup>-1</SUP>). Lead concentration in soil under all treatments decreased between 30-80% (62.61-23.18 mg kg <sup>-1</SUP>) when compared to the control (75 mg kg <sup>-1</SUP>). In all treatments, lead accumulation in the plants was higher on day 45 than what was found on days 55 and 65. Among these three species, A. philoxeroides showed a greater potential for lead accumulation than P. granaiflora and. S. procumbens . On day 45, A. philoxeroides showed significant differences in lead accumulation (29.99%) compared to that from P. granaiflora (13.03%) and S. procumbens (16.44%). Even though the amount of lead extracted by these three plants was small, the results showed that A. philoxeroides had the ability to extract an approximately 1.3-1.8 times greater amount than P. grandiflora and S. procumbens. Phytoremediation technology is environmentally friendly and cost-effective; A. philoxeroides may be a practicable alternative for protecting the soil in Thailand from leaching lead.