Predicting bioavailable cadmium levels in soils

April 15, 2014

New Zealand's pastoral landscapes are some of the loveliest in the world, but they also contain a hidden threat. Many of the country's pasture soils have become enriched in cadmium. Grasses take up this toxic heavy metal, which is then eaten by the cattle and sheep that graze them. The problem is not unique to New Zealand; cadmium-enriched soils being reported worldwide.

The concern is that if concentrations rise to unsafe levels in meat and dairy products, human health and New Zealand's agricultural economy could be jeopardized. That so far hasn't happened.

But, New Zealand isn't taking any chances. Brett Robinson, a scientist with New Zealand's Lincoln University, recently published an article in the Mar. 21, 2014 edition of the Journal of Environmental Quality that gives some solutions to the problem.

The use of phosphate fertilizers over many decades—contaminated with cadmium—created the current conditions. These practices continue today. Robinson and his team are trying to determine which soil factors most strongly affect soil cadmium concentrations. They found that soil pH, iron concentrations and total were excellent predictors of how much cadmium is biologically available for plants.

Robinson's work also shows ways to keep the cadmium from being taken up by plants. His research showed that more increased the cadmium that is available to plants. So, using lime to prevent soil acidification could help "lock" the cadmium in the soil.

Similarly, iron oxides bind cadmium tightly and hold it in soil. Robinson is working with the coal-mining company, Solid Energy New Zealand, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology to determine whether certain amendments will reduce plant uptake of cadmium. Robinson's research can also be applied worldwide to help with cadmium contamination.

Explore further: First South American plant for purifying soils contaminated with zinc and cadmium

More information: A copy of the full article can be accessed at www.soils.org/discover-soils/s … new-zealand-pastures

Related Stories

Cadmium poisoning from China factory kills 26: report

July 31, 2013

At least 26 villagers have died from cadmium poisoning and hundreds more fallen ill since 2009 near a disused factory in central China, local media said Wednesday, underscoring the country's mounting pollution challenge.

Dietary cadmium may be linked with breast cancer risk

March 15, 2012

Dietary cadmium, a toxic metal widely dispersed in the environment and found in many farm fertilizers, may lead to an increased risk of breast cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American ...

Cadmium linked to plaque development in older women

July 31, 2012

(HealthDay) -- Cadmium levels in blood and urine are independently associated with the development of atherosclerotic plaques in older women, according to a study published online July 20 in the Journal of Internal Medicine.

Recommended for you

The world needs to rethink the value of water

November 23, 2017

Research led by Oxford University highlights the accelerating pressure on measuring, monitoring and managing water locally and globally. A new four-part framework is proposed to value water for sustainable development to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.