Development of a technology for commercial phytoextraction of nickel: economic and technical considerations
- Cite this article as:
- Li, YM., Chaney, R., Brewer, E. et al. Plant and Soil (2003) 249: 107. doi:10.1023/A:1022527330401
- 493 Downloads
In recent R&D work, we have made progress in developing a commercial technology using hyperaccumulator plant species to phytoextract nickel (Ni) from contaminated and/or Ni-rich soils. An on-going program is being carried out to develop a genetically improved phytoextraction plant that combines favorable agronomic and Ni accumulation characteristics. Genetically diverse Ni hyperaccumulator species and ecotypes of Alyssum were collected and then evaluated in both greenhouse and field using serpentine and Ni-refinery contaminated soils. Large genetic variation was found in those studies. Mean shoot Ni concentrations in field-grown plants ranged from 4200 to 20 400 mg kg−1. We have been studying several soil management practices that may affect the efficiency of Ni phytoextraction. Soil pH is an important factor affecting absorption of metals by plants. An unexpected result of both greenhouse and field experiments was that Ni uptake by two Alyssum species was reduced at lower soil pH and increased at higher soil pH. At higher pH, plant yield was improved also. In soil fertility management studies, we found that N application significantly increased plant biomass, but did not affect plant shoot Ni concentration. These findings indicate that soil management will be important for commercial phytoextraction. A number of field trials have been carried out to study planting methods, population density, weed control practices, harvest schedule and methods, pollination control, and seed processing. Such crop management studies have improved phytoextraction efficiency and provide a tool for farmers to conduct commercial production. We have done some work to develop efficient and cost-effective methods of Ni recovery. Recovery of energy by biomass burning or pyrolysis could help make phytoextraction more cost-effective. The progress made in our recent studies will enable us to apply this technology commercially in the near future.