The phytotoxicity of ZnO nanoparticles on wheat varies with soil properties.Biometals. 2015 Feb; 28(1):101-12.B
Zn is an essential element for plants yet some soils are Zn-deficient and/or have low Zn-bioavailability. This paper addresses the feasibility of using ZnO nanoparticles (NPs) as soil amendments to improve Zn levels in the plant. The effects of soil properties on phytotoxicity and Zn bioavailability from the NPs were studied by using an acidic and a calcareous alkaline soil. In the acid soil, the ZnO NPs caused dose-dependent phytotoxicity, observed as inhibition of elongation of roots of wheat, Triticum aestivum. Phytotoxicity was mitigated in the calcareous alkaline soil although uptake of Zn from the ZnO NPs occurred doubling the Zn level compared to control plants. This increase occurred with a low level of Zn in the soil solution as expected from the interactions of Zn with the soil components at the alkaline pH. Soluble Zn in the acid soil was 200-fold higher and shoot levels were tenfold higher than from the alkaline soil correlating with phytotoxicity. Mitigation of toxicity was not observed in plants grown in sand amended with a commercial preparation of humic acid: growth, shoot uptake and solubility of Zn from the NPs was not altered by the humic acid. Thus, variation in humic acid between soils may not be a major factor influencing plant responses to the NPs. These findings illustrate that formulations of ZnO NPs to be used as a soil amendment would need to be tuned to soil properties to avoid phytotoxicity yet provide increased Zn accumulations in the plant.