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Research article2022Peer reviewed

Inorganic versus organic fertilizers: How do they lead to methylmercury accumulation in rice grains

Sun, Tao; Xie, Qing; Li, Chuxian; Huang, Jinyong; Yue, Caipeng; Zhao, Xuejie; Wang, Dingyong


Both inorganic and organic fertilizers are widely used to increase rice yield. However, these fertilizers are also found to aggravate mercury methylation and methylmercury (MeHg) accumulation in paddy fields. The aim of this study was to reveal the mechanisms of inorganic and organic fertilizers on MeHg accumulation in rice grains, which are not yet well understood. Potting cultures were conducted in which different fertilizers were applied to a paddy soil. The results showed that both inorganic and organic fertilizers increased MeHg concentrations rather than biological accumulation factors (BAFs) of MeHg in mature rice grains. Inorganic fertilizers, especially ni-trogen fertilizer, enhanced the bioavailability of mercury and the relative amount Hg-methylating microbes and therefore intensified mercury methylation in paddy soil and MeHg accumulation in rice grains. Unlike inorganic fertilizers, organic matter (OM) in organic fertilizers was the main reason for the increase of MeHg concentra-tions in rice grains, and it also could immobilize Hg in soil when it was deeply degraded. The enhancement of MeHg concentrations in rice grains induced by inorganic fertilizers (5.18-41.69%) was significantly (p < 0.05) lower than that induced by organic fertilizers (80.49-106.86%). Inorganic fertilizers led to a larger increase (50.39-99.28%) in thousand-kernel weight than MeHg concentrations (5.18-41.69%), resulting in a dilution of MeHg concentrations in mature rice grains. Given the improvement of soil properties by organic fertilizer, increasing the proportion of inorganic fertilizer application may be a better option to alleviate MeHg accumu-lation in rice grains and guarantee the rice yield in the agricultural production.


Mercury methylation; Organic fertilizers; Inorganic fertilizers; Rice grains; Methylmercury accumulation

Published in

Environmental Pollution
2022, Volume: 314, article number: 120341

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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