Green Technology


Lead contaminated soil


Phytoremediation: an emerging technology that uses plants
to clean up organic or inorganic contaminants in-situ from soil, groundwater, surface water and even the atmosphere.

Why Phytoremediation ?
BENEFITS Land burial or incineration $200 - $1500 per ton 

Economical Improves quality and texture of soil Mitigates erosion from wind and water Possibility of bio-recovery No geographical restriction Environmentally friendly High public acceptance

Phytoremediation $10 - $50 per ton
Gerhardt et al, 2009

Lead: A serious heavy metal pollutant Effects of Lead Sources of Lead 
Pesticides and fertilizers Dumping of municipal waste Vehicle exhaust Used in paint, batteries, television glass, ammunition, etc Industrial processes like mining and smelting. Soil quality degradation Crop yield reduction Poor quality of agricultural products Significant hazards to human,  animal and ecosystem health

Health effects 
Lead poisoning (fatal). Impaired development in children with lower IQ. Mental deterioration.

Phytoremediation Techniques
Phytoextraction: Absorption and concentration of metals from the soil into the roots and shoots of the plants. Rhizofiltration: Absorb and adsorb pollutants in plant roots. Phytostabilization: Root exudates cause metals to precipitate and biomass becomes less bioavailable. Phytovolatilization: Plants evaporate certain metal ions and volatile organics Phytodegradation: Microbial degradation in the rhizosphere region. Phytotransformation: Plant uptake of organic contaminants and degradation. Removal of aerial contaminants: Uptake of various organics by leaves.
Yang et al, 2005

Major processes involved in heavy metals accumulation in plants

Yang et al, 2005


Selection of Plant
Selection of plant is an ongoing process which is based on following features: 

Fast growing  High biomass  Extensive root system  Easy to harvest  Tolerate and accumulate a range of heavy metals in their
harvestable parts

Hyperaccumulators: plants capable of sequestering heavy metals in
their shoot tissues at high concentrations.

Plants used for hyperaccumulating lead
Brassica juncea (Indian Mustard) Bidens maximowicziana Allium fistulosum (Onion)
(Lim et al, 2004)

Alternanthera philoxeroides (Cho-Ruk et al, 2006)
(Hong-qi et al, 2007) (Cho et al, 2009)

Lathyrus sativus (Grass pea) (Brunet et al, 2008)


Plant preparation Seed germinated in seedbed. Precultured in seedbed. Plantlets transplanted and cultured in Pb contaminated soil.

Soil preparation Solution of lead nitrate (PbNO3) in different concentration mixed to soil.

Plant Harvest & Analysis Lead content in different plant parts measured by inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES).

Use of soil amendments to increase the availability of heavy metals for plant uptake, like: EDTA, Citric acid, NaH2PO3. Use of specific microorganisms to facilitate Pb uptake

Limitations / Challenges
Slow growth rate of plants. Restricted to sites with shallow contamination within rooting zone. Plant growth is hard to achieve in heavily impacted soil. Bioavailability of target metal(s). Disposal of plant biomass could be a RCRA regulated hazard substance. Introduction of non-native species may affect biodiversity. Unfavourable climate may limit plant growth Presence of stressors Variation in temperature Availability of nutrients Herbivory Plant pathogens Competition by weeds that are better adapted to the site

Overcoming challenges Use of native plant species. Use of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria to facilitate the growth of plants used for phytoremediation. Use of chelating agents to increase the solubility of lead in soil.

Future perspectives 

Search for fast growing, metal tolerant hyperaccumulating plants with extensive root system. Engineering of common plants with hyperaccumulating genes from microorganisms or from other plants .

Hyperaccumulators has potential for phytoremediation of
metal contaminated soils.  This technology is still in its infancy and it has yet to be used commercially.  It is predicted to account for approximately 10-15% of the growing environment remediation market in 2010 (Glick, 2003).

Phytoremediation= Soil healing technique

Brunet, J, Repellin, A., Varrault, G. Terryn, N. Zuily F. (2008) Lead accumulation in the roots of grass pea (Lathyrus Sativus): a novel plant for phytoremediation : Competes Rendus Biologies, Vol.331(11), pp. 859-864 Cho-Ruk, K., Kurukote, J., Supprung, P. and Vetayasuporn, S. (2006) Perennial plants in the phytoremediation of lead contaminated soils Available at: Cho, Y., Bolick, J.A. and Butcher, D.J. (2009), Phytoremediation of lead with green onions (Allium fistulosum) and uptake of arsenic compounds by moonlight ferns (Pteris cretica cv Mayii): Microchemical journal, Vol. 91, pp. 6-8 Glick, B.R. (2003) Phytoremediation: synergistic use of plant and bacteria to clean up the environment: Biotechnology advances, Vol.21, pp. 383-393 Gerhardt, K.E., Huang, X., Glick, B.R., and Greenberg, B.M. (2009) Phytoremediation and rhizoremediation of organic soil contaminants: Potential and challenges: Plant science, Vol.176, pp. 20-30 Hong-qi, W., Si-jin, LU, Hua. L. and Zhi-hua, Y.(2007) EDTA- enhanced phytoremediation of lead contaminated soil by Bidens maximowicziana: Journal of Environmental sciences, Vol.19, pp. 1496-1499 Lim, J., Salido, A.L. and Butcher, D.J. (2004) Phytoremediation of lead using Indian mustard (Brassica juncea) with EDTA and electrodics: Microchemical journal, Vol. 76, pp. 3-9 Yang, X., Feng, Y., He, Z. and Stoffella, P.J. (2005) Molecular mechanisms of heavy metal hyperaccumulation and phytoremediation: Journal of trace elements in medicinea nd biology, Vol.18, pp.339-353

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