The Science of the total environment

Green manure and long-term fertilization effects on soil zinc and cadmium availability and uptake by wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) at different growth stages.

PMID 28525939


Zinc (Zn) deficiency in human populations depending on cereals as a main source of Zn is a global malnutrition problem. In this field study, we investigated the potential of green manure application to increase soil Zn availability and wheat grain Zn concentrations (biofortification) on a Luvisol with different long-term fertilizer management. We also studied cadmium (Cd), as wheat is a major contributor of this undesired non-essential element to human diets. Clover (Trifolium alexandrinum L.), mustard (Sinapis alba L.) or no green manure was grown on field plots which had been managed with farmyard manure or mineral fertilizers for 65years in Switzerland. After green manure incorporation into the soil, spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) was grown on all plots. The "diffusive gradients in thin films" (DGT) method and DTPA extraction were used to compare soil Zn and Cd availability among the treatments. In contrast to mustard, clover increased soil mineral nitrogen concentrations and wheat biomass; however, neither increased grain Zn concentrations. DGT-available Zn and Cd increased temporarily after both farmyard manure and mineral nitrogen fertilizer application. Higher DTPA-extractable soil Zn and Cd, lower wheat grain yields, but higher grain Zn concentrations were obtained with farmyard manure compared to mineral fertilizers, independent of the green manure treatment. Farmyard manure added Zn, Cd and organic matter that increased the soil binding capacity for Zn and Cd. The decomposition of clover residues caused higher wheat grain yields, but only marginally lower grain Zn concentrations. The absence of a stronger dilution of grain Zn was probably due to organic acid and nitrogen release from decomposing clover, which facilitated Zn uptake by wheat. The study revealed that both long- and short-term field management with organic matter alters soil Zn and Cd concentrations but that the long-term effects dominate their uptake by wheat, in Zn sufficient soil.