Evaluation of Chelating Agents Used in Phytoextraction by Switchgrass of Lead Contaminated Soil

Genna Hart, Kennesaw State University
Marina Koether, Kennesaw State University
Thomas McElroy, Kennesaw State University
Sigurdur Greipsson, Kennesaw State University


Soil lead (Pb) contamination is a recognized environmental and global health problem. Phytoextraction of Pb using switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), a second-generation biofuel crop, is typically enhanced by soil chelation. The effectiveness of four different chelating agents, phytic acid (inositol hexaphosphate), citric acid, NTA (nitrilotriacetic acid), and EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) was examined in pot culture. Plants treated with EDTA (1 mM) showed significantly higher shoot Pb concentrations compared to control plants and plants treated with other chelates. Lead-solubility following phytoextraction was examined by soil washing using 0.01 and 0.05 M acetic acid as an extractant solution revealed no significant differences in Pb concentrations in soil among different chelate treatments and control. Furthermore, the effects of different concentrations (1, 2, 5 and 10 mM) of NTA on Pb phytoextraction of switchgrass were examined. Plants receiving 5 mM and 10 mM NTA had significantly higher foliage concentrations of Pb compared to plants treated with lower levels (1 and 2 mM) of NTA. Moreover, the effect of NTA application alone was significantly improved by a combined application of Triton X-100, an alkyl polyglucoside (APG); the Pb concentration in the foliage of switchgrass was more than doubled when treated with NTA combined with APG. The use of NTA combined with APG has great potential in improving phytoextraction efficiencies of switchgrass on Pb-contaminated soils.