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Partitioning of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc amongst above-ground parts of seed and grain crops grown in selected locations in the USA

Abstract

The distribution of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in above-ground parts of corn, small grains and pulse crops was investigated. Sampled parts included grain or seed, leaves, stems, silk and husks of corn-ears, rachilla and chaff of small grains and pods of bean plants. The distribution of these elements was variable and reflected, primarily, their relative mobility between plant parts including transfer into the grain. Generally, Zn and Cu were preferentially transferred into the seed or grain, while Cd and Pb were selectively excluded from these organs. For example, the distribution pattern in ears of corn was: for Cd, husks > silk > grain; for Zn, silk > grain > husks. The selective transfer of Zn and Cu into seed or grain, in contrast to the restricted movement of Cd and Pb into these organs, may be the result of selective absorption of Zn and Cu over Cd and Pb by vascular transfer cells within the plant's reproductive tissues. The effect of soil type on Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn levels in cereal grain or pulse seed was small compared to the differences found in the concentrations of these elements between different plant organs. Thus, grain and seed crops serve as natural barriers to the movement of the potentially toxic heavy metals, Cd and Pb, into the animal/human food chain, minimising their transfer from soils while conserving Zn and Cu levels in edible portions of these crops.

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Correspondence to Darrell R. Van Campen.

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Soil Scientist, USDA, Soil Conservation Service, Retired.

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Kubota, J., Welch, R.M. & Van Campen, D.R. Partitioning of cadmium, copper, lead and zinc amongst above-ground parts of seed and grain crops grown in selected locations in the USA. Environ Geochem Health 14, 91–100 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01784020

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Keywords

  • Heavy Metal
  • Corn
  • Cadmium
  • Plant Part
  • Plant Organ