Cu phytoextraction and biomass utilization as essential trace element feed supplements for livestock

Xiaolin Wang, Marcella Fernandes de Souza, Michel J. Mench, Haichao Li, Yong Sik Ok, Filip M.G. Tack, Erik Meers

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Copper (Cu), as an essential element, is added to animal feed to stimulate growth and prevent disease. The forage crop alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) produced during Cu phytoextraction may be considered a biofortified crop to substitute the Cu feed additives for livestock production, beneficially alleviating Cu contamination in soils and reducing its input into agriculture systems. To assess this, alfalfa was grown in three similar soils with different Cu levels, i.e., 11, 439 and 779 mg kg−1 for uncontaminated soil (A), moderately Cu-contaminated soil (B) and highly Cu-contaminated soil (C), respectively. EDDS (Ethylenediamine-N,N′-disuccinic acid) was applied to the soils seven days before the first cutting at four rates (0, 0.5, 2 and 5 mmol kg−1) to enhance bioavailable Cu uptake. Alfalfa grew well in soils A and B but not in the highly Cu-contaminated soil. After applying EDDS, a significant biomass reduction of the first cutting shoot was only observed with 5 mmol kg−1 EDDS in the highly Cu-contaminated soil, with a 45% (P < 0.05) decrease when compared to the control. Alfalfa grown in the three soils gradually wilted after the first cutting with 5 mmol kg−1 EDDS, and Cu concentrations in the first cutting shoot were augmented strongly, by 250% (P < 0.05), 3500% (P < 0.05) and 6700% (P < 0.05) compared to the controls, respectively. Cu concentrations in alfalfa shoots were found to be higher in this study than in some fodder plants and further augmented in soils with higher Cu levels and with EDDS application. These findings suggest that alfalfa grown on clean soils or soils with up to 450 mg Cu kg−1 (with appropriate EDDS dosages) has the potential to be considered as a partial Cu supplementation for livestock. This research laid the foundation for the integration between Cu-phytoextraction and Cu-biofortification for livestock.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118627
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Feb 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was carried out with the support of the project “New-C-Land” ( Interreg France-Wallonie-Vlaanderen , supported by European Regional Development Fund ), of the China Scholarship Council (CSC) and of the Special Research Fund (BOF) from Ghent University .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Biomass management
  • Cu supplement
  • Cu-biofortification
  • Feed additives
  • Perennial crop

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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