Plant and Soil

, Volume 431, Issue 1–2, pp 333–345 | Cite as

Copper oxide nanoparticle effects on root growth and hydraulic conductivity of two vegetable crops

  • Andrew J. MargenotEmail author
  • Devin A. Rippner
  • Matt R. Dumlao
  • Sareh Nezami
  • Peter G. Green
  • Sanjai J. Parikh
  • Andrew J. McElrone
Regular Article



Root growth and water transport were evaluated for two vegetable crops of contrasting root architecture (lettuce, carrot) exposed to copper oxide nanoparticles (CuO NPs).


10-day seedling root growth assays were evaluated for 16 nanometer (nm) diameter CuO NP and CuCl2 control (0.8 – 798.9 mg Cu L-1). In a separate experiment, hydraulic conductivity (Kh) of root systems not previously exposed to NP was tested using 16 and 45 nm CuO NP (798.9 mg Cu L-1) relative to CuO NP-free controls, and xylem sap was assessed by TEM-EDS for presence of CuO NPs.


16 nm CuO NP produced dose-dependent increases in root diameter for lettuce (+52%) and carrot (+26%) seedlings, whereas CuCl2 did not affect (lettuce) or marginally increased (carrot) root diameter. Root Kh was similarly reduced by 16 and 45 nm CuO NPs for lettuce (-46%) but not for carrot, and no Cu was identified by TEM-EDS in xylem sap.


Adverse effects of CuO NPs on root physiology and function in the early stages of growth of two key food crops are not necessarily due to Cu2+ toxicity and can be specific to crop species. In addition to triggering root thickening, reduction of root Kh signifies that CuO NPs can compromise root water transport and thus crop performance.


Copper oxide Nanoparticles Roots Hydraulic conductivity Lettuce Carrot 



copper oxide




hydraulic conductivity



This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number Grant #2013-67017-21211. We thank Professor Wendy Silk (Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, University of California-Davis) for providing intellectual support, laboratory resources and student advising. We thank Professor Thomas Young (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California-Davis) for providing access to and support for ICP-MS analysis. Finally, we would like to thank Fred Hayes at the Applied Materials Characterization Facility at UC Davis for his support in collecting STEM data.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Crop SciencesUniversity of Illinois Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Land, Air and Water ResourcesUniversity of California-DavisDavisUSA
  3. 3.California Council on Science and TechnologySacramentoUSA
  4. 4.Department of Soil ScienceRazi UniversityKermanshahIran
  5. 5.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of California-DavisDavisUSA
  6. 6.Department of ViticultureUniversity of California-DavisDavisUSA
  7. 7.United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research ServiceCrops Pathology and Genetics Research UnitDavisUSA

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