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Radiocaesium in an organic soil and the effect of treatment with the fungicide ‘Captan’

Shand, Charles A. and Cheshire, M.V. and Smith, S. and Campbell, C.D. and Anderson, P. and Davidson, Christine M. and Littlejohn, David and Jamieson, N. (1995) Radiocaesium in an organic soil and the effect of treatment with the fungicide ‘Captan’. Plant and Soil, 170 (2). pp. 315-322. ISSN 0032-079X

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Soil fungi accumulate radiocaesium from contaminated soil and it has been hypothesised that this may alter the plant availability and movement of the radionuclide in soil. The effect of twice-monthly addition of an aqueous suspension of the fungicide 'Captan' on the changes in a peaty podzol soil at 2 sites, contaminated 2 or 3 years earlier by the injection of Cs-134, has been quantified. The sites had different soil acidity and vegetation cover. The less acid soil (pH(water) 5.0) had been improved by the addition of lime and fertilizer and was reseeded with grass and clover. The more acid soil (pH(water) 3.8) was under hill grasses, herbs and heather. On both sites the addition of fungicide did not alter the amount or concentration of radiocaesium in plant material sampled monthly or the depth distribution of radiocaesium in the soil profile. The concentration of the fungal constituent, ergosterol, in the soil, measured monthly, was unaffected by the fungicide treatment but evidence was obtained from a pot experiment to show that ergosterol decomposes slowly in cold, wet soils. On the more acid soil, two weeks after the last application of fungicide, there was a decline in active fungi as measured by fluorescein diacetate staining. Chloroform fumigation of the more acid soil resulted in a small increase in the amount of Cs-134 exchangeable with 1 M ammonium acetate. Radiocaesium in seven different fungi grown in pure culture was found to be almost entirely extractable (> 95%) with 1 M ammonium acetate. Another, Amanita rubescens, showed some retention and 88% was extractable. These findings do not preclude the fungal biomass as an important soil component controlling plant availability of radiocaesium from acid, organic soils by maintaining radiocaesium in a biological cycle, but make it unlikely that any fixation by fungi in a chemical sense is involved.