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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory » Research » Research Project #430993

Research Project: Environmental and Plant Factors That Influence Trace Element Bioavailability in Food Crops

Location: Adaptive Cropping Systems Laboratory

2018 Annual Report


1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Characterize effects of flood and soil management on As (inorganic and total) and Cd accumulation in rice grain. 1A: Does alternate wetting and drying (AWD) irrigation management reliably lower inorganic As (iAs) in rice grain without causing excessive grain Cd in rice genotypes? 1B: Develop extraction and analysis methods to rapidly measure the inorganic As (iAs) in rice grain samples. Objective 2: Characterize competition of other cations with Cd accumulation by rice and vegetables. 2A: Clarify whether increased Zn2+ activity reduces Cd2+ accumulation by spinach, lettuce and rice and whether plant Zn deficiency causes up-regulation of Zn transporters which increases uptake of Zn and Cd compared to Zn-sufficient crops. 2B: Clarify whether increased manganese (Mn2+) is more important than Zn2+ in inhibiting uptake of Cd2+ by rice and vegetables from nutrient solutions with environmentally relevant activity of Cd2+. Objective 3: Characterize effects of soil amendments on Pb, Cd and As accumulation by garden crops to improve advice to urban gardeners regarding risk reduction for contaminated urban soils. 3A: Characterize the effects of soil amendments and mulch on Pb and Cd accumulation by garden crops from contaminated urban garden soils. 3B: Characterize the effects of soil amendments on Pb and Cd accumulation by crops grown in contaminated urban gardens. Objective 4: Continue evaluation of the effects of crop species and crop Zn on bioavailability of crop Cd to animals. Test whether crop Zn concentration and crop species affect the bioavailability of crop Cd to monogastric animals in order to clarify if crop species and crop Zn should be included in technically valid limits for Cd in crops.


1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Because rice accumulates higher levels of inorganic As (iAs) than other crops, regulations are being imposed on iAs in rice grain which are lower than achieved by some growers. More aerobic soil management both lowers grain iAs and increases grain Cd. In order to identify methods to produce rice with lower levels of iAs, samples of rice grain from cooperators’ field tests of the effect of irrigation management, genetic variation, and soil amendment application will be analyzed for iAs and Cd (which may be increased by aerobic soil management to lower grain iAs). Previous methods for analysis of iAs in rice were so expensive that few samples could be evaluated to identify the needed genetic variation and irrigation management variation needed to lower grain iAs. An improved method for simple analysis of iAs using hydride generation from only iAs in samples was developed and will be validated by an international inter-laboratory project. Simpler and faster methods to extract iAs and Cd from rice flour will be evaluated so that market demanded analyses might be made available to the industry. Chelator-buffered nutrient solution methods will be developed to test the competition among elements for absorption of Cd by rice and spinach using levels of Cd, Mn and Zn chemical activity in the solution similar to soil solution. Recent studies indicated that Cd is absorbed on a Mn transporter in rice, but a Zn transporter in other species. Flooded soil production increases dissolved Mn but reduces dissolved Zn in rice soils until fields are drained; after drainage, much higher Cd absorption can occur. Cooperators field tests of irrigation management which limits both As and Cd in grain will be investigated. In other soils, crop Cd accumulation may exceed allowable limits in spinach and lettuce. High natural soil Cd and low Zn in spinach production fields in California allows excessive Cd accumulation in spinach and lettuce. Characterizing the direct competition among these trace elements in representative crop species will clarify needed management changes to limit Cd accumulation by both crop groups. Besides testing direct inhibition of Cd uptake by Zn and Mn in both species, the effect of Mn and Zn deficiency on up-regulation of the uptake rate of Cd will be evaluated. The potential utility of soil amendments on uptake of Pb, Cd and As by garden crops, and bioaccessibility of soil Pb to mammals will be evaluated both in the greenhouse, and when improved methods have been identified, will be tested in cooperating urban gardens with high soil Pb, Cd or As. Because food Cd limits presently do not consider variation in Cd bioavailability among crops, or the effect of crop Zn on Cd bioavailability, the effect of usual co-contaminating Zn on accumulation of diet Cd by weanling pigs will be tested with diets containing 20% Romaine lettuce or spinach. Bioavailability will be evaluated by analyzing duodenum, liver and kidney from test animals. These studies should provide evidence that the effect of Zn on Cd absorption, and effect of spinach oxalate on Cd absorption should be included in international regulation of Cd in crops.


3. Progress Report:
The second year of the three-year study in which the inorganic Arsenic (iAs) concentration in rice grain was analyzed using methods developed in this lab to support the breeding and other research of ARS and University cooperators in Arkansas and California. Over 500 rice samples were analyzed for iAs from field experiments to determine the effects of plant breeding and different farm management practices on the uptake of iAs. A greenhouse experiment was also conducted at Beltsville, Maryland to determine the effect of alternating wetting and drying (AWD) flood management on total and inorganic arsenic in rice grain and leaves. ARS researcher in collaboration with scientist from John Hopkins University identified urban farms and home gardens within the city of Baltimore and collected soil samples. Over 1,000 soil samples were collected before the crops were planted. These soil samples were processed and are being analyzed for total and extractable arsenic, barium, calcium, copper, cadmium, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, nickel, lead, and zinc concentrations. Root and leafy vegetable crops were collected during the growing period from each farm or garden for determination of the above elements. Cadmium (Cd) accumulation by spinach and lettuce from Cd-mineralized soils in Salinas Valley, California, limits grower’s use of these soils for the production of leafy vegetables. A greenhouse experiment using a high cadmium Lockwood loam soil amended with Los Angeles biosolids compost, zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), and limestone to determine which amendment combinations were most effective in reducing Cd accumulation by spinach and radish. Plants were harvested and analyzed for Cd, Mn, and Zn. Data are being analyzed. This greenhouse study will provide additional information for future work with soil amendment use in urban garden situations.


4. Accomplishments
1. Reduction in inorganic arsenic (iAs) in rice. The level of iAs in rice is of major importance both in the United States and internationally. Rice is the second leading food crop in the world and was worth $2.38 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017. Meeting limits on iAs in rice is important to producers who need information to assess contamination and management practices. Research done by ARS researchers in Beltsville, Maryland resulted in the development of a simple, rapid method for analysis of iAs. In addition, cooperative work between ARS researcher in Stuttgart, Arkansas and Beltsville, Maryland, has helped to provide important information on both production practices for rice and important rice cultivars that will provide for decreased levels of iAs in rice. This finding will provide valuable information to the rice industries, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and farmers.


Review Publications
Beyer, N.W., Codling, E.E., Rutzke, M.A. 2017. Anomalous bioaccumulation of lead in the earthworm Eisenoides lonnbergi (Michaelsen). Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 37(3):914-919.

Codling, E.E. 2018. Accumulation of lead and arsenic by peanut grown on lead and arsenic contaminated soils amended with broiler litter ash or superphosphate. Journal of Plant Nutrition. 41(12):1615-1623. https://doi.org/10.1080/1904167.2018.1459696.

Fernandez, V., Barnaby, J.Y., Tomecek, M.B., Codling, E.E., Ziska, L.H. 2017. The effect of elevated CO2 on arsenic accumulation in diverse ecotypes of Arabidopsis thaliana. Journal of Plant Nutrition. 41:645-653.