Background: There has been increasing concern in recent years about the concentration of lead (Pb) in tea. However, little research has been done to address questions concerning the distribution of Pb in different varieties of tea plant and the differences among tea plant varieties in their uptake and accumulation of Pb from the soil. Therefore the aim of this study was to investigate the accumulation of Pb in different tea plant varieties and the factors affecting Pb bioavailability.
Results: Three patterns of Pb distribution could be observed in different plant parts among the eight tea varieties surveyed, as well as a linear relationship between the Pb concentration in fine roots and the exchangeable Pb fraction in the corresponding soil. The uptake of Pb by fine roots increased significantly as the soil pH decreased. The average ratios of Pb concentration in fine roots to those in young stems and young leaves were 5.18 and 31.80 respectively. In fine roots the Pb concentration varied from 22.7 to 61.6 mg kg(-1).
Conclusion: The results indicated that the uptake, transport and accumulation of Pb by tea plant organs were strongly governed by soil conditions and tea variety, thus providing tea producers with useful information on variety selection for the production of quality teas containing low levels of Pb.