The effect of fluctuating soil moisture cycles on soil cadmium (Cd) phytoavailability was investigated in a pot trial with two contrasting soils (Kereone (Allophanic), total Cd 0.79 mg kg−1
; and Topehaehae (Gley), total Cd 0.61 mg kg−1
) that were either sown with plantain (Plantago lanceolata
) or left unseeded. Varying soil moisture contents were established using contrasting irrigation regimes: “flooded” (3 days flooded and then 11 days drained); or “non-flooded” (irrigation to 70% of potted field capacity every 7 days). Overall, there was no significant difference in mean 0.05 M CaCl2
soil extractable Cd concentrations or plant tissue Cd concentrations between flooded and non-flooded irrigation. However, there was a consistent trend for an increase in soil extractable Cd concentrations following irrigation, regardless of the irrigation regime. Mean soil extractable Cd and plant tissue Cd concentrations were significantly greater (approximately 325% and 183%, respectively) for the Topehaehae soil than the Kereone soil, despite the lower soil total Cd concentration of the Topehaehae soil. These results indicate that Cd solubility is sensitive to increases in soil moisture following periods of soil drainage, but insensitive to short-term periods of soil saturation. Plant tissue Cd concentrations in Cd-sensitive forage crops such as plantain are likely to be greater following large rainfall events over summer and autumn. This has the potential to increase animal dietary Cd exposure and rate of liver/kidney Cd accumulation.
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