Elevated concentrations of trace elements in soil do not necessarily reflect metals available to plants

George F. Antonious, Maifan R. Silitonga, Teferi D. Tsegaye, Jason M. Unrine, Timothy Coolong, John C. Snyder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Bioaccumulation and entry of trace elements from soil into the food chain have made trace-elements major environmental pollutants. The main objective of this investigation was to study the impact of mixing native agricultural soil with municipal sewage sludge (SS) or SS mixed with yard waste (SS+YW) compost on total concentration of trace elements in soil, metals available to plants, and mobility of metals from soil into peppers and melon fruits. Regardless of soil treatment, the average concentrations of Ni, Cd, Pb, Cr, Cu, Zn, and Mo in melon fruits were 5.2, 0.7, 3.9, 0.9, 34.3, 96.1, and 3.5μg g-1, respectively. Overall concentrations of Ni, Cd, Pb, and Zn in melon fruits were significantly greater (P < 0.05) than pepper fruits. No significant differences were found in Cr, Cu, and Mo concentrations between pepper and melon fruits at harvest time. Total metal concentrations and metal ions in soil available to melon and pepper plants were also determined. Total concentration of each metal in the soil was significantly greater than concentration of metal ions available to plants. Elevated Ni and Mo bioaccumulation factor (BAF > 1) of melon fruits of plants grown in SS+YW mixed soil is a characteristic that would be less favorable when plants grown on sites having high concentrations of these metals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-225
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part B Pesticides, Food Contaminants, and Agricultural Wastes
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Darrell Slone, Janet Pfeiffer for their kind assistance in planting pepper and melons at Kentucky State University Research Farm, Eric Turley and Regina Hill for maintaining the field plots. This investigation was supported by a grant from USDA/CSREES to Kentucky State University under agreement No.KYX-10-08-43P.


  • Municipal sewage sludge
  • bioaccumulation factor
  • melon
  • pepper
  • yard waste compost

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Pollution


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