Question: Detection of heavy metals in plants

JWL is asking a question about heavy-metals
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by JWL | December 04, 2014 20:48 | #11435

Hi all,

any ideas on a pratical method for detecting heavy metals in plants such as grass or maize? I would like to use (aerial) photo's instead of measuring each plant separately. Heavy metals cause a shift in the "red edge" and there are other spectral vegetation indices that are influenced. In literature a resolution of 3nm is cited. Red edge is around 710 nm. NDVI uses red and NIR.

Thanks, Johan


I think it would be difficult to measure for heavy metals without interacting with the plant in some way, as the metals are unlikely to be hanging out on the surface of the plant.

Most likely you'd have to get a plant sample, pulverize it enough to rip apart the cell walls, and then run a spectrum of the plant guts in solution. There might be other methods, but I'm not thinking of anything that would work from far away with no ability to interact with the plant.

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Hi Johan,

Although a shift in the red edge could indicate heavy metal stress it could also indicate a host of other types of stress. Monitoring the red edge is possible but it might not be inexpensive or practical since you would want to use a very narrow band filter.

It might be possible to detect certain types of heavy metal stress remotely but you would almost certainly want lot of different narrow bands along the lines of an imaging spectrometer or hyperspectral imager and you'd also need to do a good bit of lab work with a spectrometer to tease out the subtle effects of different heavy metals.

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