Zn phytoextraction and recycling of alfalfa biomass as potential Zn-biofortified feed crop

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

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Zn is an essential micronutrient for living organisms and, in that capacity, it is added to animal feed in intensive livestock production to promote growth and eliminate diseases. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) may have the potential to compensate and substitute the need for chemical Zn additives in feeds as a Zn-biofortified feed crop when grown on Zn-enriched soils. Thus, this possibility was investigated with a greenhouse experiment using three soils with Zn concentrations (mg kg−1) of 189 (soil A), 265 (soil B) and 1496 (soil C). Ethylenediamine-N,N′-disuccinate acid (EDDS) and Nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) at different rates (0 as control, 0.5, 2 and 5 mmol kg−1) were applied as soil additives to enhance the phytoextraction efficiency of alfalfa. The results showed that Zn was highly transferable in alfalfa tissues in the three soils even without additives. EDDS was more effective than NTA in enhancing Zn phytoextraction by alfalfa. The maximum Zn accumulation in the third cutting shoots was obtained with the EDDS concentration of 5 mmol kg−1 in soil A and of 2 mmol kg−1 in soil B, with a 462% and 162% increase compared with controls, respectively. However, the higher EDDS concentration resulted in a significant reduction in biomass production. In soil C, all EDDS concentrations resulted in similar Zn accumulations in the third shoot. To improve the phytoextraction efficacy of Zn while minimizing its phytotoxicity on alfalfa, the rate of 2 mmol kg−1 EDDS proved to be optimal for soil B, and 0.5 mmol kg−1 EDDS for soils A and C. Findings suggest that phytoextraction of Zn-enriched soil can be combined with Zn biofortification, thus allowing to recycle Zn into biomass that can, to an extent, substitute Zn feed additives. This study provided a primary data set for the combination of Zn-biofortification and Zn-phytoextraction.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143424
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 15

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Alfalfa
  • EDDS
  • NTA
  • Phytoextraction biomass management
  • Zn biofortification
  • Zn supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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