Arsenic Bioaccumulation by Eruca sativa Is Unaffected by Intercropping or Plant Density
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Because crop uptake of arsenic from soils poses a human health concern, this study examines the effect of plant species, neighborhood, and planting density on arsenic uptake by brassicas grown with companion crops. At a field site contaminated by arsenic and lead, we measured arsenic uptake in arugula (Eruca sativa) and collards (Brassica oleracea var. acephala) grown in arrangements varying in species diversity and density. We further tested the effect of species diversity on arsenic uptake in two greenhouse experiments with arsenic-spiked potting soil, one test using brassicaceous plants with intercropped pairs of arugula, collards, and kale (B. oleracea var. acephala). The other had intercropped pairs of arugula, lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and marigold (Tagetes patula). Arugula in all cropping arrangements accumulated the highest and most variable concentrations of arsenic compared to other species, with neither species diversity in the companion crops nor planting density affecting arsenic uptake. We observed increased phosphorus and sulfur uptake by arugula exposed to soil arsenic in the greenhouse brassica intercropping experiments, a result that may be explained by a biological response to arsenic or competition of arsenate with phosphate and sulfate for adsorption sites in the soil. Arsenic uptake was largely independent of plant-plant facilitation effects sometimes reported for other elements, possibly because of strong buffering of the bioavailable fraction of arsenic in the soils tested.
KeywordsArsenic bioaccumulation Phosphate Sulfate Brassicas Arugula Companion crops
This research was funded by the Atkinson Sustainable Biodiversity Fund, the Toward Sustainability Foundation, the Cornell Sigma Xi Grants in Aid of Research Program (awarded to MPL), and Federal Hatch project NYC-125445. We thank Betsy Leonard for allowing us access to the Dilmun Student Organic Farm property for the field component of this work and Alice Jenkins for the laboratory assistance.
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