Zinc fertilisation increases grain zinc and reduces grain lead and cadmium concentrations more in zinc-biofortified than standard wheat cultivar

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Given that plant uptake and transport systems for metals have some similarities, zinc (Zn)-biofortified cultivars may concurrently accumulate non-essential toxic heavy metals in grains. However, Zn-biofortified cultivars have never been tested for heavy metal accumulation in grains. In a pot experiment, we compared Zn-biofortified wheat (Zincol-2016) with a standard wheat (Faisalabad-2008) cultivar on heavy-metal-contaminated soils for yield response and grain accumulation of Zn, lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd), without or with Zn fertilisation (8 mg Zn kg− 1). The soils, collected from agricultural fields in (i) industrial zone and (ii) peri-urban area, had been receiving industrial and city effluents for > 20 years. In the two soils, Zn fertilisation significantly (P ≤ 0.05) increased grain yield of both cultivars. Zinc fertilisation increased grain Zn concentration of Zincol-2016 and Faisalabad-2008 by respectively 32 and 18% in industrial-zone soil, and by 15 and 2% in peri-urban soil. Averaged across Zn rates, Zincol-2016 accumulated in grains more than double the Zn amount than Faisalabad-2008 in industrial-zone soil. At 0 mg Zn kg− 1, grain Pb and Cd concentrations were respectively 26 and 33% greater in Zincol-2016 than Faisalabad-2008 in industrial-zone soil, and 86 and 50% greater in Zincol-2016 than Faisalabad-2008 in peri-urban soil. Zinc fertilisation significantly (P ≤ 0.05) decreased concentration of Pb and Cd in grains of both cultivars. In industrial-zone soil, a toxic level of Pb in grains (0.24 mg kg− 1) was attained at control rate of Zn by Zincol-2016, and was decreased to a safe level (0.07 mg kg− 1) by application of 8 mg Zn kg− 1. Therefore, biofortified cultivars should not be grown in contaminated soils, and/or sufficient Zn must be applied, to decrease accumulation of non-essential toxic heavy metals in grains. Moreover, future breeding efforts should be directed toward selection of biofortified cultivars that would selectively accumulate Zn in grains, but not the contaminants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-460
Number of pages7
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 15 Dec 2017

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