Lead Battery Soil Contamination in Africa and the Implications on Plant and Human Health

Globally, battery manufacturing and recycling plants have been identified as the major sources of soil lead contamination that have resulted in lead exposure to neighbouring communities via the accumulation of lead within plants.

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Masai child next to Opuntia stricta (© CABI)

Lead is naturally found in soil in relatively low concentrations (10-50 mg/kg) in which it is taken up by plants via the roots and accumulates within root cells as lead is used in low levels by plants. Excessive lead concentrations found within plants have been shown to reduce the functionality of morphological, biochemical and physiological functions as well as promoting deleterious effects. For more detailed information on the effects of lead on plant health, see here.

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Update: Plant Health News (27 Aug 14)

Soil health issues cost African farmers $4 billion a year in lost crop productivity © Gates Foundation (CC BY-NC-ND)
Soil health issues cost African farmers $4 billion a year in lost crop productivity © Gates Foundation (CC BY-NC-ND)

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including surveillance robots that can detect weeds and pest insects, a focus on gender capacity development in Ethiopia and smallholder farmers in Africa adopting practices to improve their field soil health.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!
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Plant-bacteria relationships a-maize scientists

The seedlings of cultivated Zea mays. Credit Bff.

Many of us have seen the adverts trying to convince us that there are ‘good bacteria’ that we should be making the most of in yogurty, pro-biotic drinks to help keep our guts healthy. Now it turns out that plants like maize are already one step ahead of us – not only making the most of beneficial soil (or rhizo-) bacteria, but having also learnt to draw the good bacteria towards their root system. Once they’ve done that, the plants just sit back, relax, and let the hardworking bacteria do all the work for them.

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