The phytoremediation of recalcitrant metals such as lead and uranium rely on soil amendments to enhance metal availability within the rhizosphere. Because these amendments may persist in soils, agents that not only biodegrade rapidly but also are effective in triggering metal uptake in plants are needed for metals phytoextraction to be considered as an accepted practice. In this study, several biodegradable organic acids and chelating agents were assessed to determine if these amendments can be used in an effective manner, and if their activity and use is consistent with a proposed class of soil amendments for phytoextraction, here termed transient phytoextraction agents (TPAs). A TPA is proposed as an agent that would exhibit both effectiveness in triggering plant accumulation of the targeted metal while minimizing the risk of migration through rapid degradation or inactivation of the soluble complex. Eleven candidate TPAs (acetic acid, ascorbic acid, citric acid, malic acid, oxalic acid, succinic acid, ethylenediaminedisuccinic acid, dicarboxymethylglutamic acid, nitrilotriacetic acid, BayPure® CX 100, and the siderophore desferrioxamine B) were tested in batch studies to evaluate their complexation behavior using contaminated soils, with uranium and lead as the target metals. A growth chamber study was then conducted with Brassica juncea (Indian mustard), Helianthus annuus (sunflower), and Festuca arundinacea (tall fescue) grown in a lead-contaminated soil that was treated with the candidate TPAs to assess phytoextraction effectiveness. For the soils tested, citric acid, oxalic acid, and succinic acid were found to be effective complexing agents for uranium phytoextraction, whereas Baypure® CX 100 and citric acid exhibited effectiveness for lead phytoextraction.
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