Germanium in the soil-plant system—a review

Oliver Wiche, B. Székely, Christin Moschner, Hermann Heilmeier

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Germanium (Ge) is widespread in the Earth’s crust. As a cognate element to silicon (Si), Ge shows very similar chemical characteristics. Recent use of Ge/Si to trace Si cycles and changes in weathering over time, growing demand for Ge as raw material, and consequently an increasing interest in Ge phytomining have contributed to a growing interest in this previously rather scarcely considered element in geochemical studies. This review deals with the distribution of Ge in primary minerals and surface soils as well as the factors influencing the mobility of Ge in soils including the sequestration of Ge in secondary mineral phases and soil organic matter. Furthermore, the uptake and accumulation of Ge in plants and effects of plant-soil relationships on the availability of Ge in soils and the biogeochemical cycling of Ge are discussed. The formation of secondary soil minerals and soil organic matter are of particular importance for the concentration of Ge in plant-available forms. The transfer from soil to plant is usually low and shows clear differences between species belonging to the functional groups of grasses and forbs. Possible uptake mechanisms in the rhizosphere are discussed. However, the processes that are involved in the formation of plant-available Ge pools in soils and consequently its biogeochemical cycling are not yet well understood. There is, therefore, a need for future studies on the uptake mechanisms and stoichiometry of Ge uptake under field conditions and plant-soil-microbe interactions in the rhizosphere as well as the chemical speciation in different plant parts.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Availability
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Rhizosphere
  • Soil fractions
  • Trace element analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

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