, Volume 317, Issue 1-2, pp 31-39
Date: 26 Sep 2008

Arsenic toxicity to rice (Oryza sativa L.) in Bangladesh

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Natural contamination of groundwater with arsenic (As) occurs around the world but is most widespread in the river basin deltas of South and Southeast Asia. Shallow groundwater is extensively used in the Bengal basin for irrigation of rice in the dry winter season, leading to the possibility of As accumulation in soils, toxicity to rice and increased levels of As in rice grain and straw. The impact of As contaminated irrigation water on soil-As content and rice productivity was studied over two winter-season rice crops in the command area of a single tubewell in Faridpur district, Bangladesh. After 16–17 years of use of the tubewell, a spatially variable build up of As and other chemical constituents of the water (Fe, Mn and P) was observed over the command area, with soil-As levels ranging from about 10 to 70 mg kg−1. A simple mass balance calculation using the current water As level of 0.13 mg As L−1 suggested that 96% of the added arsenic was retained in the soil. When BRRI dhan 29 rice was grown in two successive years across this soil-As gradient, yield declined progressively from 7–9 to 2–3 t ha−1 with increasing soil-As concentration. The average yield loss over the 8 ha command area was estimated to be 16%. Rice-straw As content increased with increasing soil-As concentration; however, the toxicity of As to rice resulted in reduced grain-As concentrations in one of the 2 years. The likelihood of As-induced yield reductions and As accumulation in straw and grain has implications to agricultural sustainability, food quality and food security in As-affected regions throughout South and Southeast Asia.

Responsible Editor: Richard W. Bell.