In order to explore a practical approach to the remediation of the cadmium (Cd)-contaminated soil in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, we evaluated the effects of a local willow (Salix x aureo-pendula CL 'J1011') of absorbing, accumulating, and translocating Cd; and assessed the potential of chelator ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) in combination with ethyl lactate for enhancing the efficiency of the willow in removing Cd in two water-culture growth chamber trials and a field one. The willow showed a high tolerance to Cd in growth chamber trial 1 where the Cd concentration in the medium reached up to 25 mg L(-1) medium, and the bioaccumulation factors (BAFs) of the shoots for Cd rose from 3.8 to 7.4 as the Cd concentration in the medium was elevated from 5 to 25 mg L(-1) medium. In growth chamber trial 2, the average Cd removal rates in two treatments with EDTA and ethyl lactate (molar ratios of EDTA to ethyl lactate=68/39 and 53.5/53.5, respectively) reached 0.71 mg d(-1) pot(-1) for the duration of Day 5-8 and 0.59 mg d(-1) pot(-1) for that of Day 8-11, which were 5- and 4-fold of their counterparts in the control, respectively. In the field trial, for the remediational duration of 45 days, three treatments-willow alone, willow combined with EDTA, and willow combined with EDTA and ethyl lactate-led to decreases in the Cd concentration in soil by 5%, 20%, and 29%, respectively; increases in that in the leaves by 14.6%, 56.7%, and 146.5%, respectively; and increases in that in the stems by 15.6%, 41.2%, and 87.4%, respectively, compared to their counterparts on Day 0. These results indicate that EDTA combined with ethyl lactate significantly enhanced the efficiency of willow in removing Cd from the soil. Therefore, a phytoextration system consisting of the autochthonous willow, EDTA, and ethyl lactate has high potential for the remediation of the Cd-polluted soil in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
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