Soil geochemical factors regulate Cd accumulation by metal hyperaccumulating Noccaea caerulescens (J. Presl & C. Presl) F.K. Mey in field-contaminated soils

Carla E. Rosenfeld, Rufus L. Chaney, Carmen E. Martínez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Cadmium contamination in soil is a substantial global problem, and of significant concern due to high food-chain transfer. Cadmium hyperaccumulators are of particular interest because of their ability to tolerate and take up significant amounts of heavy metal pollution from soils. One particular plant, Noccaea caerulescens (formerly, Thlaspi caerulescens), has been extensively studied in terms of its capacity to accumulate heavy metals (specifically Zn and Cd), though these studies have primarily utilized hydroponic and metal-spiked model soil systems. We studied Cd and nutrient uptake by two N. caerulescens ecotypes, Prayon (Zn-only hyperaccumulator) and Ganges (Zn- and Cd-hyperaccumulator) in four long-term field-contaminated soils. Our data suggest that individual soil properties such as total soil Cd, Zn:Cd molar ratio, or soil pH do not accurately predict Cd uptake by hyperaccumulating plants. Additionally, total Cd uptake by the hyperaccumulating Ganges ecotype was substantially less than its physiological capacity, which is likely due to Cd-containing solid phases (primarily iron oxides) and pH that play an important role in regulating and limiting Cd solubility. Increased P accumulation in the Ganges leaves, and greater plant Fe accumulation from Cd-containing soils suggests that rhizosphere alterations via proton, and potentially organic acid, secretion may also play a role in nutrient and Cd acquisition by the plant roots. The current study highlights the role that soil geochemical factors play in influencing Cd uptake by hyperaccumulating plants. While these plants may have high physiological potential to accumulate metals from contaminated soils, individual soil geochemical factors and the plant-soil interactions in that soil will dictate the actual amount of phytoextractable metal. This underlines the need for site-specific understanding of metal-containing solid phases and geochemical properties of soils before undertaking phytoextraction efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by funding from the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University and by an NSF (Award # 0947962 ) GK-12 graduate fellowship. We thank Drs. Leon Kochian and Matt Milner for providing the N . caerulescens seeds and plant growth guidance and M. Luke McCormack, Elizabeth Herndon, Michael Schmidt and Amrita Battacharyya for their assistance with plant harvest. Portions of this research were also performed at beamline X23A2 at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), Brookhaven National Lab, with help from Bruce Ravel. Use of the NSLS, was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, under Contract No. DE-AC02-98CH10886.


  • Cadmium
  • Iron oxides
  • Metal hyperaccumulators
  • Phytoremediation
  • Spectroscopy

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