Comparing the effects of pH on the sorption of metals by soil and by goethite, and on uptake by plants

N. J. Barrow, B. R. Whelan

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    Abstract

    The effects of soil pH on sorption of cadmium, zinc, nickel and cobalt were studied by changing the pH of a soil and measuring sorption. Results were compared with published results for effects of pH on sorption of cadmium, zinc and nickel by goethite. In a further experiment, the effects of pH on the uptake of zinc and cobalt by subterranean clover were measured. Effects of pH on sorption were described in terms of the concentration of metal ions required to produce equal sorption. Where the metal ions were incubated with the soil, unit increase in pH decreased the concentration of metal ions required about 10-fold for zinc, about 7-fold for nickel, about 6-fold for cobalt, and about 4-fold for cadmium. When the soil was mixed with a large volume of solution, the effects were similar for zinc and cadmium but slightly smaller for cobalt and slightly larger for nickel. In all cases, the magnitude of the effect varied somewhat with pH. Sorption was greater with a dilute background electrolyte than with a concentrated one and the effects of pH were greater. The effects for soil were smaller than effects of pH on sorption by iron oxides for which unit increase in pH can decrease the required concentration of zinc 35-fold and cadmium 11-fold. These results are consistent with adsorption of divalent ions on a variable charge surface that is negatively charged. They are not consistent with the adsorption of monovalent metal ions on a variable charge surface. This mechanism requires at least a 10-fold effect of pH. They show that the change in electric potential with change in pH is smaller for reacting surfaces in soil than for goethite. The effects of changing pH on the amounts of zinc and cobalt fertilizer required for equal uptake by plants was even smaller with unit increase in pH, causing a 1.4-fold increase in the amount of fertilizer required, that is, a 1.4-fold decrease in fertilizer effectiveness.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)683-692
    Number of pages10
    JournalEuropean Journal of Soil Science
    Volume49
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1998

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