This study focuses on evaluating a method of acquiring soil solution in the soil-root interface of the rhizosphere. The liquid phase of the rhizosphere constitutes the main area where plants absorb contaminants like trace metals. Thus the rhizosphere soil solution is key to determine the amount of bioavailable trace metals. Microlysimetry has been described as the most appropriate in situ method to tackle difficulties inherent to the microscopic scale of the rhizosphere. Despite the lack of an exhaustive evaluation of their performance, microlysimeters have gained popularity for in situ studies on the bioavailability of trace metals. The objective of this study was to evaluate the capacity of microlysimeter to preserve the chemical integrity of the soil solution and also to determine their optimum use conditions. To do this, microlysimeter have been submitted to a series of laboratory experiments with solutions and soils. The volume of solution extracted and trace metals (Cd, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn) behaviour were studied.
Results show that microlysimeters work optimally when soil water content is above field capacity and when the amount of clay and organic matter is low. Sandy soils with low organic carbon content have a better reproducibility for extracted volume and soil solution extraction is possible even when soil water content is below field capacity. Using microlysimeters in this soil type is thus optimal. In solution experiments, microlysimeters reached equilibrium with the control solution after ten hours of extraction. In optimal conditions (acidic pH and high DOC) and after this ten hours period, microlysimeters preserve the chemical composition of the solution. In soil experiments, this equilibrium has not been reached after eight samplings throughout ten days. Organic matter content and microbial activity could be responsible for the modification of concentrations of trace metals during sampling. This is especially true for FH horizon where microlysimeters perform poorly. In contrast, the concentrations reach the reference values toward the end of sampling serie in the B horizon and microlysimeters have a better overall performance in this horizon. Although higher values are observed for microlysimeters, trace metals concentrations are comparable to other extraction methods, specifically for the B horizon. Even if their uses are optimized in sandy soil, the B horizon should be privileged for future field studies involving microlysimeters.