The effect of copper on the growth, development and chemical composition of some dryland wheat cultivars.
Heavy metal accumulation in arable land as a result of mining activities, pesticides and fertilisers has become a global concern. Steinkopf and Concordia in the Northern Cape are well-known for subsistence farming, but just as well-known for the nearby copper mining industry. Very little research has been done on heavy metal toxicity in these areas, thus it was of importance to assess the wheat cultivars (Triticum aestivum) historically used in the study areas, to ensure the viability of wheat farming. The nine wheat cultivars screened were Flameks, Knoppies, Rooiwol, Rooigys, Yecoro Royo, Charchia, Witwol, Kariega and Losper. A comparative study was done by determining the concentration levels of Cu, Fe, Zn, Mn, K, Mg, Ca, Na, N and P in the roots and shoots of sensitive and tolerant wheat cultivars. It was established that Witwol and Rooigys were the most tolerant to these adverse conditions. Kariega and Rooiwol were most sensitive. Their tolerance was achieved by excluding copper from the roots and limiting the translocation of copper to the shoots. This trend to exclude copper uptake in Witwol and Rooigys, warrants further investigation on a molecular level to explain these adaptive mechanisms.