Magnetic removal/immobilization of cadmium and zinc in contaminated soils using a magnetic microparticle solid chelator and its effect on rice cultivation

  • Xinxing Nie
  • Zhiyi ZhangEmail author
  • Xiange XiaEmail author
  • Li Yang
  • Xianpeng Fan
  • Manjie Zheng
Soils, Sec 3 • Remediation and Management of Contaminated or Degraded Lands • Research Article



Magnetic removal techniques using functionalized magnetic nanoparticles as adsorbents have been frequently tested for use in the removal of heavy metals in aqueous solution, but seldom in farmland soil. Here, a novel magnetic microparticle solid chelator (MSC) was employed as the adsorbent for magnetic removal and/or immobilization of Cd and Zn in a paddy soil (PS), an upland soil (US), and a paddy–upland rotation soil (RS) with different degrees of pollution.

Materials and methods

MSC was applied to 14 kg air-dried soil samples (PS, US, and RS) at the dosage of 1% (w/w), and then watered, and intermittently stirred. Finally, the MSC–metal complexes were retrieved using a magnetic device (MCR treatment) or not (MC treatment), and the removal efficiency of soil Cd and Zn in MCR treatment was evaluated. After magnetic separation of MSC–metal complexes, pot experiments were performed to investigate the impacts of the magnetic remediation process on rice growth, the phytoavailability of soil Cd and Zn, and the accumulation of Cd and Zn in rice plants.

Results and discussion

The MCR treatment exhibited recovery rates of 55.4%, 49.6%, and 19.0% for MSC–metal complexes in PS, US, and RS, respectively, which brought about removal efficiencies of 2.2–12.2% for Cd and 1.9–4.6% for Zn. The MC and MCR treatments substantially decreased the availability of soil Cd, but not soil Zn; this effect was more remarkable when using CaCl2 instead of DTPA as the extractant for determination of bioavailable metals. Furthermore, the CaCl2-extractable Cd and Zn had a more significant relationship with Cd and Zn concentrations in rice roots. The MC and MCR treatments led to dramatic reductions in rice grain Cd of 23.9–72.1% and 37.3–63.9%, respectively, in the three soils relative to the respective controls. The MC and MCR treatments also exhibited an inhibitory effects on rice grain Zn accumulation in US (10.6% and 4.3% decreases, respectively) and RS (9.3% and 19.5% decreases, respectively), but not in PS. Moreover, the grain yield was unaffected under the MCR treatment in the three soils, and significantly increased by 29.8% under the MC treatment in US.


Our study suggests that MSC-based magnetic remediation technique can effectively immobilize and/or remove Cd and Zn in farmland soils, decreasing their uptake by rice plants, with no adverse effects on grain yield.


Cadmium Immobilization Magnetic separation Microparticle solid chelator Rice cultivation Zinc 



The authors would like to thank the reviewers of this manuscript for their helpful comments.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2017YFD0801003), the Youth Fund of Hubei Academy of Agricultural Sciences (Nos. 2018NKYJJ05, 2018NKYJJ07), and the Non-profit Collaborative Innovation Alliance Project (No. 2018LM).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Supplementary material

11368_2019_2554_MOESM1_ESM.docx (179 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 178 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Fertilization from Agricultural WastesMinistry of Agriculture and Rural AffairsWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Qianjiang Scientific Observing and Experimental Station of Agro-Environment and Arable Land ConservationMinistry of Agriculture and Rural AffairsQianjiangPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Institute of Plant Protection and Soil ScienceHubei Academy of Agricultural SciencesWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Golden Shield Environmental Technology Co., LtdWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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