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Chemosphere. 2007 May;67(11):2229-40. Epub 2007 Feb 7.

Effects of sewage sludge amendment on heavy metal accumulation and consequent responses of Beta vulgaris plants.

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Ecology Research Laboratory, Department of Botany, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi 221 005, India.


Use of sewage sludge, a biological residue produced from sewage treatment processes in agriculture is an alternative disposal technique of waste. To study the usefulness of sewage sludge amendment for palak (Beta vulgaris var. Allgreen H-1), a leafy vegetable and consequent heavy metal contamination, a pot experiment was conducted by mixing sewage sludge at 20% and 40% (w/w) amendment ratios to the agricultural soil. Soil pH decreased whereas electrical conductance, organic carbon, total N, available P and exchangeable Na, K and Ca increased in soil amended with sewage sludge in comparison to unamended soil. Sewage sludge amendment led to significant increase in Pb, Cr, Cd, Cu, Zn and Ni concentrations of soil. Cd concentration in soil was found above the Indian permissible limit in soil at both the amendment ratios. The increased concentration of heavy metals in soil due to sewage sludge amendment led to increases in heavy metal uptake and shoot and root concentrations of Ni, Cd, Cu, Cr, Pb and Zn in plants as compared to those grown on unamended soil. Accumulation was more in roots than shoots for most of the heavy metals. Concentrations of Cd, Ni and Zn were more than the permissible limits of Indian standard in the edible portion of palak grown on different sewage sludge amendments ratios. Sewage sludge amendment in soil decreased root length, leaf area and root biomass of palak at both the amendment ratios, whereas shoot biomass and yield decreased significantly at 40% sludge amendment. Rate of photosynthesis, stomatal conductance and chlorophyll content decreased whereas lipid peroxidation, peroxidase activity and protein and proline contents, increased in plants grown in sewage sludge-amended soil as compared to those grown in unamended soil. The study clearly shows that increase in heavy metal concentration in foliage of plants grown in sewage sludge-amended soil caused unfavorable changes in physiological and biochemical characteristics of plants leading to reductions in morphological characteristics, biomass accumulation and yield. The study concludes that sewage sludge amendment in soil for growing palak may not be a good option due to risk of contamination of Cd, Ni and Zn and also due to lowering of yield at higher mixing ratio.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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