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A partition-limited model for the plant uptake of organic contaminants from soil and water

January 1, 2001

In dealing with the passive transport of organic contaminants from soils to plants (including crops), a partition-limited model is proposed in which (i) the maximum (equilibrium) concentration of a contaminant in any location in the plant is determined by partition equilibrium with its concentration in the soil interstitial water, which in turn is determined essentially by the concentration in the soil organic matter (SOM) and (ii) the extent of approach to partition equilibrium, as measured by the ratio of the contaminant concentrations in plant water and soil interstitial water, αpt (≤ 1), depends on the transport rate of the contaminant in soil water into the plant and the volume of soil water solution that is required for the plant contaminant level to reach equilibrium with the external soil-water phase. Through reasonable estimates of plant organic-water compositions and of contaminant partition coefficients with various plant components, the model accounts for calculated values of αpt in several published crop-contamination studies, including near-equilibrium values (i.e., αpt ≅ 1) for relatively water-soluble contaminants and lower values for much less soluble contaminants; the differences are attributed to the much higher partition coefficients of the less soluble compounds between plant lipids and plant water, which necessitates much larger volumes of the plant water transport for achieving the equilibrium capacities. The model analysis indicates that for plants with high water contents the plant-water phase acts as the major reservoir for highly water-soluble contaminants. By contrast, the lipid in a plant, even at small amounts, is usually the major reservoir for highly water-insoluble contaminants.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2001
Title A partition-limited model for the plant uptake of organic contaminants from soil and water
DOI 10.1021/es0017561
Authors C. T. Chiou, G. Sheng, M. Manes
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70023523
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program