Complex soil contamination severely impacts seed-sown crop viability in Australia

Australasian Journal of Crop Science
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australasian Journal of Crop Science, 2021, 15, (4)
Issue Date:
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Food security is a critical issue for many global communities. Heavy metal contaminationin soilspresenta majorand ongoingecologicalriskassociated with human activitieswhich may impactthe viability and safety ofseed-sown crops. To better understand the impacts of soil contamination by heavy metals on seed-sown crop viability, we examined germination responses of eight commercially-important fruit and vegetablecropspecies to copper, zinc, andleadcontaminationat levels likely to be foundin contaminated regions inAustralia. We compared the germination attributes of days to first germination, germination period, and total proportion of seeds germinated underconcentrationlimitsof heavy metals detectedat degraded sites andcurrentAustralianNational Environment Protection Measure thresholds for domestic soils (i.e., copper 6,000 mgkg-1, zinc 4,700 mgkg-1, lead 300 mgkg-1). Thecombined heavy metal treatment (i.e. all three metals) significantly inhibited germination for all edible crop species with only carrots able to germinate under complex, multi-metal-contaminatedconditions. Seed viability was significantly decreasedin mulberry (M.alba var.tatarica, M. nigra, and M. rubra) andlettuce(L. sativa),with loweredseed germination in all metalscomparedtocarrot(D. carota),radish(R. sativus), tomato(S. lycopersicum) andcommon bean(P. vulgaris). These results indicate heavy metal contamination is a notable risk to seed-sown crop species, with multi-metal contaminationeventslikely to be severely damagingto lettuce, tomato, radish, common bean, and mulberry crops.
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