Phytoremediation of a multi contaminated soil: mercury and arsenic phytoextraction assisted by mobilizing agent and plant growth promoting bacteria

Elisabetta Franchi*, Eleonora Rolli, Ramona Marasco, Gloria Agazzi, Sara Borin, Paola Cosmina, Francesca Pedron, Irene Rosellini, Meri Barbafieri, Gianniantonio Petruzzelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Purpose: The possibility of using chemical and microbial additives to enhance the phytoextraction of mercury (Hg) and arsenic (As) from a multi-contaminated soil could be very effective, leading to a significant saving in terms of time and costs of the reclamation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the addition of (i) thiosulfate and (ii) metal-tolerant bacteria isolated from the polluted soil having plant growth promotion (PGP) potential to perform As and Hg phytoextraction by Brassica juncea and Lupinus albus. Materials and methods: A collection of 13 bacterial isolates able to tolerate As and Hg was obtained from the contaminated soil, identified by partial 16S rRNA gene sequencing and tested in vitro for PGP activities. The most promising strains were further tested in vivo for the evaluation of plant growth ability and rhizocompetence on model plants. Pot experiments were conducted in microcosms, with polluted soil vegetated with B. juncea and L. albus. Ammonium thiosulfate and potassium dihydrogen phosphate were used as mobilizing agents, together with a bacterial consortium composed by the most promising PGP isolates. Results and discussion: Thirteen indigenous metal-tolerant bacterial strains were isolated, and their in vitro characterization highlighted their great potential in assisting the phytoremediation process; most of them tolerated both trace elements and showed, at the same time, multiple PGP traits. The results were confirmed in vivo on model plants and lead to the selection of the most promising PGP strains to be applied in microcosm-scale phytoextraction experiments. Thiosulfate addition significantly increased the mobilization of both elements, promoting bioavailability and phytoextraction. When a selected bacterial consortium was supplemented in addition to thiosulfate, the efficacy of the phytoaccumulation was increased up to 85 % for As and up to 45 % for Hg. Conclusions: The use of the common fertilizer thiosulfate appeared to have great potential in phytoextraction practices since it was able to facilitate the uptake by plants of both Hg and As. Moreover, the application of a consortium of indigenous PGP bacteria (PGPB) produced a further positive effect on the plant biomass, supporting and enhancing the phytoextraction strategy, thus demonstrating their potential in a microbe-assisted phytoremediation intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1224-1236
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Soils and Sediments
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Arsenic mercury
  • Phytoextraction
  • Plant growth-promoting bacteria
  • Thiosulfate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Stratigraphy


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