Previous studies have shown that EDTA is necessary to solubilize soil Pb and facilitate its transport from the soil to the above ground plant tissues. These studies have also suggested that Pb is accumulated in the plant tissue with transpiration as the driving force. We conducted further studies to evaluate the relationship between EDTA soil treatment, plant transpiration, and plant accumulation of Pb and EDTA.
Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) plants were grown in soils containing Pb at three different concentrations (1.5, 3.0 and 4.8 mmol/kg) for 5 weeks before being treated with EDTA concentrations ranging from 0 to 10 mmol/kg. Plant shoots and xylem sap were collected and analyzed for Pb and EDTA content using ICP and HPLC, respectively. Water loss was measured for 7 days following EDTA application. Transpiration was not affected at <5 mmol/kg EDTA but, at 10 mmol/kg EDTA transpiration decreased by 80%, whereas accumulation of Pb and EDTA increased. In the Sassafras soil, Pb and EDTA accumulation in the plant shoots continued to increase as the applied EDTA concentration increased, except at the highest level (10 mmol/kg). In soil amended with 4.8 mmol/kg Pb and 10 mmol/kg EDTA, the concentrations of EDTA and Pb in shoots decreased and visible signs of phytotoxicity were observed. The results presented herein support recent studies in hydroponic systems showing that EDTA and Pb are taken up by the plant and suggest that Pb is translocated in the plant as the Pb-EDTA complex. The results also show that the maximum Pb accumulation by plants occurs by maximizing the concentration of the Pb-EDTA complex based on the EDTA extractable soil Pb.