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Species-dependent responses of crop plants to polystyrene microplastics

Article written by: Laura J. Zantis, Annebelle Rombach, Sylwia Adamczyk, Sannakajsa M. Velmala, Bartosz Adamczyk, Martina G. Vijver, Willie Peijnenburg, Thijs Bosker 

Abstract: Only recently there has been a strong focus on the impacts of microplastics on terrestrial crop plants. This study aims to examine and compare the effects of microplastics on two monocotyledonous (barley, Hordeum vulgare and wheat, Triticum aestivum), and two dicotyledonous (carrot, Daucus carota and lettuce, Lactuca sativaplant species through two complimentary experiments. First, we investigated the effects of low, medium, and high (103, 105, 107 particles per mL) concentrations of 500 nm polystyrene microplastics (PS-MPs) on seed germination and early development. We found species-dependent effects on the early development, with microplastics only significantly affecting lettuce and carrot. When acutely exposed during germination, PS-MPs significantly delayed the germination of lettuce by 24%, as well as promoted the shoot growth of carrot by 71% and decreased its biomass by 26%. No effect was recorded on monocot species. Secondly, we performed a chronic (21 d) hydroponic experiment on lettuce and wheat. We observed that PS-MPs significantly reduced the shoot growth of lettuce by up to 35% and increased its biomass by up to 64%, while no record was reported on wheat. In addition, stress level indicators and defence mechanisms were significantly up-regulated in both lettuce and wheat seedlings. Overall, this study shows that PS-MPs affect plant development: impacts were recorded on both germination and growth for dicots, and responses identified by biochemical markers of stress were increased in both lettuce and wheat. This highlights species-dependent effects as the four crops were grown under identical conditions to allow direct comparison. For future research, our study emphasizes the need to focus on crop specific effects, while also working towards knowledge of plastic-induced impacts at environmentally relevant conditions.

Keywords: Microplastic; Agriculture; Seed germination; Plant growth; Biochemical indicators of stress


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