Aims: Bioremediation of highly arsenic (As)-contaminated soil is difficult because As is very toxic for plants and micro-organisms. The aim of this study was to investigate soil arsenic removal effects using poplar in combination with the inoculation of a plant growth–promoting rhizobacterium (PGPR).
Methods and Results: A rhizobacterium D14 was isolated and identified within Agrobacterium radiobacter. This strain was highly resistant to arsenic and produced indole acetic acid and siderophore. Greenhouse pot bioremediation experiments were performed for 5 months using poplar (Populus deltoides LH05-17) grown on As-amended soils, inoculated with strain D14. The results showed that P. deltoides was an efficient arsenic accumulator; however, high As concentrations (150 and 300 mg kg−1) inhibited its growth. With the bacterial inoculation, in the 300 mg kg−1 As-amended soils, 54% As in the soil was removed, which was higher than the uninoculated treatments (43%), and As concentrations in roots, stems and leaves were significantly increased by 229, 113 and 291%, respectively. In addition, the As translocation ratio [(stems + leaves)/roots = 0·8] was significantly higher than the uninoculated treatments (0·5). About 45% As was translocated from roots to the above-ground tissues. The plant height and dry weight of roots, stems and leaves were all enhanced; the contents of chlorophyll and soluble sugar, and the activities of superoxide dismutase and catalase were all increased; and the content of a toxic compound malondialdehyde was decreased.
Conclusions: The results indicated that the inoculation of strain D14 could contribute to the increase in the As tolerance of P. deltoides, promotion of the growth, increase in the uptake efficiency and enhancement of As translocation.
Significance and Impact of the Study: The use of P. deltoides in combination with the inoculation of strain D14 provides a potential application for efficient soil arsenic bioremediation.