Screening of sunflower cultivars for metal phytoextraction in a contaminated field prior to mutagenesis
Sunflower can be used for the remediation of metal-contaminated soils. Its high biomass production makes this plant species interesting for phytoextraction and using sunflower oil for a technical purpose may improve the economic balance of phytoremediation. The aim of the present field study was to screen 15 commercial cultivars of Helianthus annuus L., grown on metal-contaminated soil, to find out the variety with the highest metal extraction, which can be further improved by mutation or in vitro breeding procedures. Two different fertilizers (ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate) were also used to enhance the bioavailability of metals in soil. Highly significant differences were observed within tested varieties for metal accumulation and extraction efficiency. Furthermore, ammonium nitrate increased cadmium extraction, whereas ammonium sulphate enhanced zinc and lead uptake in most tested cultivars. In this field-based sunflower screening, we found enhanced cumulative Cd, Zn, and Pb extraction efficiency by a factor 4.4 for Salut cultivar. We therefore emphasize that prior to any classical breeding or genetic engineering enhancing metal uptake potential, a careful screening of various genotypes should be done to select the cultivar with the naturally highest metal uptake and to start the genetic improvement with the best available plant material.