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Accumulation and bioavailability of heavy metals in a soil-wheat/maize system with long-term sewage sludge amendments

YANG, Guo-hang, ZHU, Guang-yun, LI, He-lian, HAN, Xue-mei, LI, Ju-mei, MA, Yi-bing
Journal of integrative agriculture 2018 v.17 no.8 pp. 1861-1870
application rate, arsenic, bioaccumulation factor, bioavailability, cadmium, calcareous soils, chromium, copper, corn, corn straw, critical load, environmental quality, field experimentation, heavy metals, indicator species, lead, mercury, nickel, sewage sludge, wheat, wheat straw, zinc, China
A long-term field experiment was carried out with a wheat-maize rotation system to investigate the accumulation and bioavailability of heavy metals in a calcareous soil at different rates of sewage sludge amendment. There are significant linear correlations between the contents of Hg, Zn, Cu, Pb, and Cd in soil and sewage sludge amendment rates. By increasing 1 ton of applied sludge per hectare per year in soil, the contents of Hg, Zn, Cu, Pb, and Cd in soil increased by 6.20, 619, 92.9, 49.2, and 0.500 µg kg–1, respectively. For Hg, sewage sludge could be safely applied to the soil for 18 years at an application rate of 7.5 t ha–1 before content exceeded the soil environmental quality standards in China (1 mg kg–1). The safe application period for Zn is 51 years and is even longer for other heavy metals (112 years for Cu, 224 years for Cd, and 902 years for Pb) at an application rate of 7.5 t ha–1 sewage sludge. The contents of Zn and Ni in wheat grains and Zn, Cu, and Cr in maize grains increased linearly with increasing sewage sludge amendment rates. The contents of Zn, Cr, and Ni in wheat straws and Zn, Cu, and As in maize straws were positively correlated with sewage sludge amendment rates, while the content of Cu in wheat straws and Cr in maize straws showed the opposite trend. The bioconcentration factors of the heavy metals in wheat and maize grains were found to be in the order of Zn>Cu>Cd>Hg>Cr=Ni>Pb>As. Furthermore, the bioconcentration factors of heavy metals in wheat were greater than those in maize, indicating that wheat is more sensitive than maize as an indicator plant. These results will be helpful in developing the critical loads for sewage sludge amendment in calcareous soils.