Accumulation of heavy metals in plants and potential phytoremediation of lead by potato, Solanum tuberosum L.

George F. Antonious, John C. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The use of sewage sludge as a source of nutrients in crop production is increasing in the United States and worldwide. A field study was conducted on a 10% slope at Kentucky State University Research Farm. Eighteen plots of 22 × 3.7 m each were separated using metal borders and the soil in six plots was mixed with sewage sludge, six plots were mixed with yard waste compost, and six unamended plots were used for comparison purposes. During a subsequent 3-year study, plots were planted with potato (year 1), pepper (year 2), and broccoli (year 3). The objectives of this investigation were to: (i) characterize chemical properties of soil-incorporated sewage sludge and yard waste compost; (ii) determine the concentration of seven heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Ni, Pb, Zn, Cu, and Mo) in sewage sludge and yard waste compost used for land farming; and (iii) monitor heavy metal concentrations in edible portions of plants at harvest. Concentrations of heavy metals in sewage sludge were below the U.S. EPA limits. Analysis of potato tubers, peppers, and broccoli grown in sludge-amended soil showed that Cd, Cr, Ni, and Pb were not significantly different from control plants. Concentrations of Zn, Cu, and Mo were significantly greater in tubers and peppers grown in sludge compared to their respective controls. Zn and Mo in broccoli heads were higher than their control plants. The ability of potato to accumulate lead needs additional investigation to optimize the phytoremediation of this pollutant element.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)811-816
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - May 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank our KSU farm crew for maintaining the runoff plots and Soil Testing Laboratory at UK for soil and plant ICP analyses. This investigation was supported by a grant from USDA/CSREES to Kentucky State University under agreements No. KYX-10-03-37P.


  • Biosolids
  • Broccoli heads
  • Pepper fruits
  • Soil conditioners
  • Yard waste compost

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering


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