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Chemosphere. 2014 Feb;96:57-66. doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2013.07.020. Epub 2013 Aug 23.

Rare earth elements (REEs): effects on germination and growth of selected crop and native plant species.

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Environment Canada, Science & Technology Branch, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Raven Rd., Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3, Canada. Electronic address:


The phytotoxicity of rare earth elements (REEs) is still poorly understood. The exposure-response relationships of three native Canadian plant species (common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca L., showy ticktrefoil, Desmodium canadense (L.) DC. and switchgrass, Panicum virgatum L.) and two commonly used crop species (radish, Raphanus sativus L., and tomato, Solanum lycopersicum L.) to the REEs lanthanum (La), yttrium (Y) and cerium (Ce) were tested. In separate experiments, seven to eight doses of each element were added to the soil prior to sowing seeds. Effects of REE dose on germination were established through measures of total percent germination and speed of germination; effects on growth were established through determination of above ground biomass. Ce was also tested at two pH levels and plant tissue analysis was conducted on pooled samples. Effects on germination were mostly observed with Ce at low pH. However, effects on growth were more pronounced, with detectable inhibition concentrations causing 10% and 25% reductions in biomass for the two native forb species (A. syriaca and D. canadense) with all REEs and on all species tested with Ce in both soil pH treatments. Concentration of Ce in aboveground biomass was lower than root Ce content, and followed the dose-response trend. From values measured in natural soils around the world, our results continue to support the notion that REEs are of limited toxicity and not considered extremely hazardous to the environment. However, in areas where REE contamination is likely, the slow accumulation of these elements in the environment could become problematic.


Crops; Dose–response study; Native plants; Phytotoxicity; Rare earth elements

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