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Alternate wetting and drying decreases methylmercury in flooded rice (Oryza sativa) systems

February 6, 2018

In flooded soils, including those found in rice (Oryza sativa L.) fields, microbes convert inorganic Hg to more toxic methylmercury (MeHg). Methylmercury is accumulated in rice grain, potentially affecting health. Methylmercury in rice field surface water can bioaccumulate in wildlife. We evaluated how introducing aerobic periods into an otherwise continuously flooded rice growing season affects MeHg dynamics. Conventional continuously flooded (CF) rice field water management was compared with alternate wetting and drying, where irrigation was stopped twice during the growing season, allowing soil to dry to 35% volumetric moisture content, at which point plots were reflooded (AWD-35). Methylmercury studies began at harvest in Year 3 and throughout Year 4 of a 4-yr replicated field experiment. Bulk soil, water, and plant samples were analyzed for MeHg and total Hg (THg), and iron (Fe) speciation was measured in soil samples. Rice grain yield over 4 yr did not differ between treatments. Soil chemistry responded quickly to AWD-35 dry-downs, showing significant oxidation of Fe(II) accompanied by a significant reduction of MeHg concentration (76% reduction at harvest) compared with CF. Surface water MeHg decreased by 68 and 39% in the growing and fallow seasons, respectively, suggesting that the effects of AWD-35 management can last through to the fallow season. The AWD-35 treatment reduced rice grain MeHg and THg by 60 and 32%, respectively. These results suggest that the more aerobic conditions caused by AWD-35 limited the activity of Hg(II)-methylating microbes and may be an effective way to reduce MeHg concentrations in rice ecosystems.

Publication Year 2018
Title Alternate wetting and drying decreases methylmercury in flooded rice (Oryza sativa) systems
DOI 10.2136/sssaj2017.05.0158
Authors K. Christy Tanner, Lisamarie Windham-Myers, Mark C. Marvin-DiPasquale, Jacob Fleck, Bruce A. Linquist
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Soil Science Society of America Journal
Index ID 70195239
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization California Water Science Center; National Research Program - Western Branch