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Heavy-metal uptake by crops from harbour sludge covered by non-contaminated topsoil. II. Cd uptake by maize in relation to root development and distribution of metals.

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Cadmium uptake by maize from polluted river sediments covered with a clean top layer of variable thickness is discussed in relation to root distribution. Two pathways for uptake are distinguished: roots penetrating the contaminated layer or contaminants moving into the root zone. Relative Cd uptake proved to be roughly proportional to the fraction of total root length found in the contaminated layer. A deeper water table induced a deeper root development and more Cd uptake for a given thickness of clean topsoil. A model based on exponential decrease of root length density with depth is acceptable as first approximation only. Little or no evidence was found for contaminants moving into the root zone during the ten years of the experiment.

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