Impact of Soil Biochar Incorporation on the Uptake of Heavy Metals Present in Wastewater by Spinach Plants

Christopher Nzediegwu, Shiv Prasher, Eman Elsayed, Jaskaran Dhiman, Ali Mawof, Ramanbhai Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The effect of plantain peel biochar on the uptake of six heavy metals (Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Pb and Zn) in spinach (Spinacia oleracea L.) irrigated with untreated wastewater was investigated in nine outdoor lysimeters (0.45 m diameter × 1.0 m height) arranged in a completely randomised design with three replicates. The lysimeters were packed with sandy soil (bulk density 1.35 Mg m−3) and brought to field capacity 1 day before starting the experiment. Biochar (1% w/w) was mixed in the top 0.10 m of soil under biochar amendment. Spinach were planted in each lysimeter, irrigated (every 10 days for 4 times in total), harvested (harvest 1 and harvest 2) and analysed for the heavy metals. Spinach leaves accumulated more heavy metals than the roots and stems. Biochar amendment did not affect the translocation of heavy metals (Cd, Cu, Cr, Fe and Pb) to spinach leaves, possibly due to competition with other compounds in the soil solution. However, the biochar amendment improved CEC and increased the pH of soils which resulted in a 42% reduction of translocation of Zn in spinach leaves. Assuming daily spinach consumption of 200 g per person, Zn in spinach grown in soil amended with biochar would be below the provisional maximum tolerable daily intake limit for adults (20 mg) as prescribed by WHO/FAO/IAEA. Consumption of spinach grown with wastewater in soil without biochar amendment may not be safe because of Zn toxicity. Likewise, the concentration of Cd, above CODEX permissible levels in the spinach leaves and eleven times higher in wastewater than freshwater irrigation, raises a concern for consumers in developing countries where untreated wastewater is often used for irrigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number123
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Crop type
  • Heavy metals
  • Lysimeters
  • Plantain peel biochar
  • Spinach
  • Wastewater irrigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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