Of all the heavy metals appearing as pollutants in agricultural soil, arsenic (As) poses the greatest threat to human health. As is a common pollutant in upland arable soils, which account for nearly 90% of the world’s agricultural soil. In its pentavalent form, known as arsenate [As(V)], As is easily absorbed by crops grown in these soils and, through them, enter the human body. Much effort has, therefore, gone into mitigating the uptake of heavy metal pollutants by crops grown in contaminated soil. Previous studies have shown that calcium materials such as calcite and phosphogypsum are effective in immobilizing heavy metal pollutants. However, their efficacy in reducing As(V) availability for crops is not clear.
To address this knowledge gap, a team of researchers led by Professor Chang Oh Hong from Pusan National University (PNU) in Korea evaluated the efficacies of calcite and phosphogypsum in reducing the availability of As(V) for crops. Their findings were made available online on 1 February 2022 and published in Volume 448 of the Journal of Hazardous Materials on 15 April 2023.
“Phosphogypsum is a by-product generated from phosphate fertilizer generation, while calcite is a very common mineral found in limestone. Both of these, essentially, change the pH of the soil that, in turn, affects the As(V) availability to crops. Yet, previous studies have not looked at the effect of calcium materials on As(V) phytoavailability nor have they explored the mechanism through which this may occur. This study is, therefore, an important step towards that direction,” says Prof. Hong.
Accordingly, the researchers spiked samples of upland, arable soils collected from an experimental farm at PNU with As(V) to have maximum control over the conditions of the soil. Next, following a wet aging period to allow the development of stable As ions, they added either calcite or phosphogypsum at varying rates and left the soils for incubation for 8 weeks.
Upon performing chemical analysis of the soils after the incubation period, the researchers found that phosphogypsum was more effective at immobilizing As(V) in the soil than calcite. They suggested that this was due to a mechanism induced by phosphogypsum in which sulfate (SO42-) ions were exchanged with hydrogen arsenate (HAsO42-) ions that, in turn, led to a reduced As(V) availability. The substitution mechanism was particularly suitable for upland, arable soils, which explained the higher effectiveness of phosphogypsum.
While the finding is exciting, Prof. Song is cautious about its implications. “While our study shows that phosphogypsum is an optimum calcium fertilizer for soil amendment, further research is still required to see the long-term effects of its use,” he says. “However, our results do bring us one step closer to making agricultural products safe for consumption,” concludes Prof. Hong
And we sure hope it works out with phosphogypsum!
Authors: Hyun Ho Leea, Yong Dong Nohb, Do yeong Hurb, Sungkyun Parkc, Sehwan Songc, Jong Seong Baed, Hojeong Kanga, Sung Un Kimb,e, and Chang Oh Hongb,e
a School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Yonsei University
b Department of Life Science and Environmental Biochemistry, Pusan National University
c Department of Physics, Pusan National University
d Busan Center, Korea Basic Science Institute
e Life and Industry Convergence Research Institute, Pusan National University
About Pusan National University
Pusan National University, located in Busan, South Korea, was founded in 1946, and is now the no. 1 national university of South Korea in research and educational competency. The multi-campus university also has other smaller campuses in Yangsan, Miryang, and Ami. The university prides itself on the principles of truth, freedom, and service, and has approximately 30,000 students, 1200 professors, and 750 faculty members. The university is composed of 14 colleges (schools) and one independent division, with 103 departments in all.
About the author
Prof. Chang Oh Hong is a Professor of Soil Science at the Department of Life Science & Environmental Biochemistry at Pusan National University (PNU), Korea. Prof. Hong received his PhD in Soil Science from Gyeongsang National University, Korea in 2008. Before joining Pusan National University, he completed the Postdoctoral training in Department of Plant Science at South Dakota State University, USA. The Hong group at PNU is developing soil management strategies to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases, including nitrous oxide and methane, from arable soil as well as reduce their global warming potential and increase the soil carbon stock.
Lab Website: http://soillab.pusan.ac.kr/
ORCID id: 0000-0001-6456-804X
Journal of Hazardous Materials
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Optimizing Calcium Materials for Minimizing Arsenate Phytoavailability in Upland Arable Soil Based on Geochemical Analysis
Article Publication Date
Hyun Ho Lee reports financial support was provided by National Research Foundation of Korea. Chang Oh Hong reports a relationship with National Research Foundation of Korea that includes funding grants