Responses and Tolerance of Cereal Crops to Metal and Metalloid Toxicity

  • Iftikhar AhmadEmail author
  • Muhammad Tahir
  • Umar Daraz
  • Allah Ditta
  • Muhammad Baqir Hussain
  • Zia Ul Haq Khan


Soil acts as a sink for a number of organic and inorganic pollutants, through which these enter into the food chain and become a potential source of human diseases. Heavy metal (Cd, Cu, Cr, Fe, Ni, Pb, Zn) and metalloid (As, Sb) contamination of soil resources is increasing due to natural and anthropogenic activities. Currently, metal(loid) accumulation is one of the most serious environmental concerns owing to their toxicity to crops. Agronomic crops, mainly cereals (wheat, Triticum aestivum; maize, Zea mays; rice, Oryza sativa), are cultivated on large area and, thereby, are more vulnerable to metal(loid) toxicity, affecting crop growth (seed germination, root/shoot length, and biomass), physiology (water relation, pigmentation, photosynthetic machinery), and metabolic processes (reactive oxygen species (ROS), lipid peroxidation, protein degradation). However, to counter these anomalies, crops are equipped with antioxidants (CAT, POD, SOD, APX, GR, proline, phenolics) to detoxify metal-induced ROS and proteins (phytochelatins, PCs; metallothioneins, MTs) to sequester metal(loid)s. Thus, further insight into these processes is important to exploit better metal-contaminated areas for raising crops, generate revenue, and feed ever-increasing population. Therefore, we present an overview of heavy metal(loid) pollution in soil; their toxicity to cereals (wheat, maize, rice) at morphological, physiological, and cellular levels; and their tolerance mechanisms. At the end, we explore the symbiotic association of cereal crops to a microbe in scavenging metal toxicity.


Cereal crops Metal(loid) toxicity Reactive oxygen species Antioxidants PGPB 



acid invertase


ascorbate peroxidase


ascorbic acid


adenosine triphosphate






dehydroascorbate reductase


electron transport system


glutamate dehydrogenase


glutamine oxoglutarate aminotransferase


guaiacol peroxidase


glutathione reductase




high molecular weight


indole-3-acetic acid


indole butyric acid




monodehydroascorbate reductase




naphthaleneacetic acid




superoxide dismutase


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iftikhar Ahmad
    • 1
    Email author
  • Muhammad Tahir
    • 1
  • Umar Daraz
    • 1
    • 2
  • Allah Ditta
    • 3
    • 4
  • Muhammad Baqir Hussain
    • 5
  • Zia Ul Haq Khan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesCOMSATS University Islamabad Vehari-CampusVehariPakistan
  2. 2.School of Resources and Environmental EngineeringAnhui UniversityHefeiPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Environmental SciencesShaheed Benazir Bhutto University SheringalSheringalPakistan
  4. 4.School of Biological SciencesThe University of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia
  5. 5.Department of Soil ScienceMuhammad Nawaz Shareef University of AgricultureMultanPakistan

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