Arsenic in irrigation water is transferred to crops

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Source: ScienceDaily

A team of researchers from the University of Valladolid (UVA) and the Salamanca Institute of Natural Resources and Agrobiology (IRNASA-CSIC) has shown that potatoes irrigated with arsenic-rich water contain this element at levels up to 35 times higher than crops on which this water was not used. The scientists have also confirmed the impact of water with high arsenic content on beet, carrot and wheat crops.

'The objective of the work we carried out was to gain an understanding of the impact of arsenic-rich subterranean waters on soil and wheat, potato, sugar beet and carrot crops', Amelia Moyano Gardini, a professor at the UVA's University School of Agrarian Engineering and co-author of the study with other experts from the engineering school of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)'s IRNASA centre, tells SINC.

In order to carry out the study, which has been published recently in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, the scientists selected 23 sites located in the south of the province of Valladolid and the north of the province of Segovia, an agricultural region known for the presence of arsenic in its subterranean waters (between 38 and 136 micrograms/litre). The researchers analysed the arsenic levels in both the soil and the four crops, and compared the data with samples gathered from three control sites irrigated with water containing very little arsenic (5 μg/l or less).

The results show that arsenic levels, both in the ground (which reached levels of up to 36 milligrams/kg) and in the plants, were higher in the sites irrigated with water containing higher levels of this element in comparison to those in the control areas. The levels of dissolved arsenic in water reached 0.9 mg/kg in some samples, which is in excess of the 0.04 mg/kg limit set for agricultural use.

The scientists found arsenic levels in the potatoes to be 35 times higher in the crops irrigated with arsenic-laden water, while they also reached high concentrations in the beets (between 3.9 and 5.4 mg/kg).

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