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Metal uptake of tomato and alfalfa plants as affected by water source, salinity, and Cd and Zn levels under greenhouse conditions


Irrigation with wastewater is a promising option to improve crop yields and to reduce pressure on freshwater sources. However, heavy metal concentrations in wastewater may cause health concerns. A greenhouse pot experiment was conducted in order to determine cadmium (Cd) and zinc (Zn) concentrations in sandy soil and plant tissues of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.). A 2 × 2 × 4 × 2 factorial treatment arrangement was utilized. Two water sources, fresh (FW) or treated wastewater (TWW), at two salinity levels (1 and 3 dS m−1) containing different levels of Cd and Zn were used. Samples were collected after a 90-day growth period. It was observed that the growth of both plants was depressed at the highest metal level (L3). Metal accumulation in plant parts increased with the increase of metal concentration and salinity in irrigation water. At low salinity, water source was the main factor which controlled metal accumulation, whereas, at high salinity, chloride appeared to be the principal factor controlling metal uptake regardless of water source. Metal translocation from roots to shoots increased in TWW-irrigated plants, even in the controls. Tomatoes accumulated Cd up to and above critical levels safe for human consumption, even though Cd concentration in irrigation water did not exceed the current recommended values. Therefore, food production in sandy soils may well pose a health hazard when irrigated with TWW containing heavy metals. Complexation with dissolved organic compounds (DOC) in TWW may be to be the principal factor responsible for increased metal uptake and transfer at low salinity, thereby increasing the risk of heavy metal contamination of food and forage crops.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the partial fund from the deanship of research at the Jordan University of Science and Technology and the German Research Foundation (DFG) for financial support of the research visit. The authors acknowledge the support from the Department of Soil Science/Soil Ecology, Institute of Geography, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany for using lab facilities.

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The manuscript has not been submitted to more than one journal for simultaneous consideration. The manuscript has not been published previously (partly or in full). This is a single study which is not split up into several parts and has not been submitted to various journals. No data have been fabricated or manipulated (including images) to support our conclusions. No data, text, or theories by others are presented; this is solely single research done by the authors. Consent to submit has been received explicitly from all co-authors before the work was submitted. Authors whose names appear on the submission have contributed sufficiently to the scientific work and therefore share collective responsibility and accountability for the results. No changes of authorship or in the order of authors will be changed after acceptance of a manuscript. If requested, authors are prepared to send relevant documentation or data in order to verify the validity of the results. The authors declare that there is no misconduct that has been established.

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Correspondence to Mamoun A. Gharaibeh.

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Responsible editor: Elena Maestri

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Gharaibeh, M.A., Marschner, B. & Heinze, S. Metal uptake of tomato and alfalfa plants as affected by water source, salinity, and Cd and Zn levels under greenhouse conditions. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 18894–18905 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-5077-3

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  • Cadmium
  • Zinc
  • Wastewater
  • Salinity
  • Tomato
  • Alfalfa