University of California

The uptake of strontium and calcium from soils by grasses and legumes and the possible significance in relation to SR-90 fallout


P. B. Vose
H. V. Koontz

Authors Affiliations

P. B. Vose was Formerly Assistant Specialist in the Experiment Station, Davis. Now at Welsh Plant Breeding. Station, University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, Wales; H. V. Koontz was Junior Agronomist in the Experiment Station, Davis.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 29(12):575-585. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v29n12p575. February 1960.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


In view of the nature of much of the evidence on which future world-wide radioactivity levels have been predicted, and also the possibility of increased bomb testing, reactor accidents, or even atomic warfare, it seemed desirable to determine if species differences existed in forage plants, such that some might take up less strontium from the soil than others.

Sixteen species and strains of forage legumes and grasses were grown on three different soils, similar in texture and pH but varying in strontium and calcium content. The plant tops and the soils were analyzed for strontium and calcium. A method was developed, using X-ray emission spectrography, for the analysis of strontium.

The results indicate three significant features: 1) Every legume species rakes up more strontium than any grass; 2) within either the grasses or the legumes the variation in strontium content between species and varieties is not marked; and 3) the amount of stronrium taken up is directly related to the calcium taken up.

A grass diet for dairy cows has an advantage over a legume diet in that both strontium and calcium levels are lower, and a higher calcium supplement can be added to the grass diet to greatly decrease the Sr/Ca ratio before calcium toxicity results. It seems reasonable that the strontium (or Sr-90) content of milk can be reduced by a factor of about 8 when cows are fed grass supplemented with calcium.

Literature Cited

Anonymous. Current Medical Research. Rep. M.R.C. 1956-57. 1958. 42: London: H.M.S.O.

Anonymous. Reclaiming radioactive soil. Agr. Res. 7. 1958. 5:5

Bowen H. J. M., Dymond J. A. Strontium and barium in plants and soils. Proc. Roy. Soc. 1955. B 144:355 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.1955.0063 [CrossRef]

Bowen H. J. M., Dymond J. A. The uptake of calcium and strontium by plants from soils and nutrient solutions. Jour. Exp. Bot. 1956. 7:264 DOI: 10.1093/jxb/7.2.264 [CrossRef]

Brandt C. S., Lazar V. A. Analysis of dried plant material by X-ray emission spectrograph. Agr. and Food Chem. 1958. 6:306 DOI: 10.1021/jf60086a006 [CrossRef]

Bryant F. J., Chamberlain A. C., Morgan A., Spicer G. S. Radiostrontium in soil, grass, milk and bone in the United Kingdom: 1956 Results 1957. Atomic Energy Res. Establishment HP/R2353.

Bryant F. J., Henderson E. H., Spicer G. S., Webb M. S. W., Webber T. J. Radioactive and natural strontium in human bone 1958. Atomic Energy Res. Establishment C/R 2583.

Chamberlain A. C., Loutit J. F., Martin R. P., Russell R. S. International Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy 1955. Paper 393. (Geneva)

Collander R. Selective absorption of cations by higher plants. Plant Physiol. 1941. 16:691 DOI: 10.1104/pp.16.4.691 [CrossRef]

Comar C. L., Scott Russell R., Wasserman R. H. Strontium-calcium movement from soil to man. Science. 1957. 126:485 DOI: 10.1126/science.126.3272.485 [CrossRef]

Failla G. Statement of radioactive fallout. Amer. Scientist. 1958. 46:138

Ford E. B. The influence of radiation on the human genotype. Biological Hazards of Atomic Energy. 1952. 67:Oxford.

Gross W. J., Taylor J. F., Lee J. A., Watson J. C. The availability of radio strontium to mammals by way of the food chain. 1953. Los Angeles: University of California. Report 259.

Guliakin I. V., Yudintseva E. V. On the behavior of fission products in soil. 1957. Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. (Translated from Russian and published by the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission.)

Hamilton J. G. The metabolism of the fission products and the heaviest elements. Radiology. 1947. 49:325

Harrison G. E., Raymond W. H. A., Tretheway H. C. Metabolism of strontium in man. Clinical Sci. 1955. 14:681

Hood S. L., Comar C. L. Metabolism of cesium 137 in rats and farm animals. Arch. Biochem. and Biophys. 1953. 45:423 DOI: 10.1016/S0003-9861(53)80018-4 [CrossRef]

Klechovsky V. M., Tselishcheva G. N. On the behavior of fission products in soil. 1957. U.S.S.R.: Academy of Sciences. (Translated and published by the IT. S. Atomic Energy Commission.)

Koontz H. V., Vose P. B. (Unpublished)

Martin D. C. The absorption and translocation of radiostrontium by the leaves, fruits and roots of certain vegetable plants 1954. Ph.D. Thesis. Michigan State University.

Mather K. The long term genetical hazard of atomic energy. Biological Hazards of Atomic Energy. 1952. Oxford. 57p.

Ministry of Agriculture. Home defense and the farmer. 1958. London: H.M.S.O.

Muller H. J. Radiation damage to the genetic material 1951. Sci. in Prog. 7th Ser. 93.

Muller H. J. Race poisoning by radiation. Saturday Rev. 1956. 39:23

Nishita H., Kowalewsky K. W., Steen A. J., Larson K. H. Fixation and extractability of fission products contaminating various soils and clays. Soil Sci. 1956. 81:317 DOI: 10.1097/00010694-195604000-00009 [CrossRef]

Piper C. S. Plant and soil analysis 1942. (Adelaide)

Rediske J. H., Selders A. A. The absorption and translocation of strontium by plants. Plant Physiol. 1953. 28:594 DOI: 10.1104/pp.28.4.594 [CrossRef]

Romney E. M., Alexander G. V., Rhoads W. A., Larson K. H. Influence of calcium on plant uptake of Sr-90 and stable strontium. Soil Sci. 1959. 87:160 DOI: 10.1097/00010694-195903000-00007 [CrossRef]

Russell R. Scott. Deposition of strontium-90 and its content in vegetation and in human diet in the United Kingdom. Nature. 1958. 182:834 DOI: 10.1038/182834a0 [CrossRef]

Russell R. Scott, Garner R. J. Uptake of strontium by pasture plants and its possible significance in relation to the fallout of strontium-90. Nature. 1959. 183:1806-07. Aug. 15. DOI: 10.1038/1831806a0 [CrossRef]

Russell R. Scott, Milbourn G. M. Rate of entry of radioactive strontium into plants from soil. Nature. 1957. 180:322 DOI: 10.1038/180322a0 [CrossRef]

Russell R. Scott, Squire Helen M. The absorption and distribution of strontium in plants. I. Preliminary studies in water culture. Jour. Exp. Bot. 1958. 9:262 DOI: 10.1093/jxb/9.2.262 [CrossRef]

Schulz R. K., Overstreet Roy, Babcock K. L. On the soil chemistry of radio-strontium. Hilgardia. 1958. 27(13):333 DOI: 10.3733/hilg.v27n13p333 [CrossRef]

Schulz P. K., Moberg J. P., Overstreet Roy. Some experiments on the decontamination of soils containing strontium-90. Hilgardia. 1959. 28(17):457 DOI: 10.3733/hilg.v28n17p457 [CrossRef]

United Nations. Report of Scientific Committee on Effects of Atomic Radiation 1958. (New York)

United Press Agency. Report 1958. July 4. (New York)

U. S. Department of Agriculture. Radioactive fallout on the farm. Farmers Bul. 1957. 2107: Wash., D.C.

U. S. Government Printing Office. The nature of radioactive fallout and its effects on man 1957. Hearings before the special committee on radiation. (Wash., D.C.)

Vose P. B., Koontz H. V. Uptake of strontium by pasture plants and its possible significance in relation to the fall-out of strontium-90. Nature. 1959. 183:1447-1448. DOI: 10.1038/1831447a0 [CrossRef]

Vose P, Koontz H. 1960. The uptake of strontium and calcium from soils by grasses and legumes and the possible significance in relation to SR-90 fallout. Hilgardia 29(12):575-585. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v29n12p575
Webmaster Email: wsuckow@ucanr.edu