Minerals and the Environment

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 10–14 | Cite as

Response of plant species to coal-mine soil materials

  • A. D. Day
  • T. C. Tucker
  • J. L. Thames


A two-year experiment was conducted on the Black Mesa Coal Mine near Kayenta, Arizona to investigate the growth and establishment of seven plant species in unmined soil (undisturbed soil) and coal-mine soil (spoils). Natural rainfall (20 cm/yr) and natural rainfull plus sprinkler irrigation (50 cm/yr) were the irrigation treatments applied to each soil material.

Plant species grew better in unmined soil than in coal-mine soil. Supplemental irrigation water resulted in more plant growth than did natural rainfall alone in both soil materials; however, there were highly significant differences among species. Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) and all of the annual perennial grasses used, excluding Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides Ricker), produced effective ground cover on both soil materials when they received supplemental irrigation water. Fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens Pursh.) had low germination (emergence), seedling establishment, and stem production during the first year of growth; however, in the second year of growth, this species produced a dense ground cover on coal-mine soil with natural rainfall plus irrigation. In revegetating the Black Mesa Coal Mine, Harlan II barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) and Super X wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) provided initial protective cover until adapted perennial species could be established for permanent stabilisation.

The Black Mesa Research Study indicated that irrigation water during seedling establishment was essential for the effective stabilisation of coal-mine soils in a semiarid environment.


Perennial Grass Ground Cover Seedling Establishment Soil Material Irrigation Treatment 
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Copyright information

© Science and Technology Letters 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. D. Day
    • 1
  • T. C. Tucker
    • 1
  • J. L. Thames
    • 1
  1. 1.Arizona Agricultural Experimental Station, College of AgricultureUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA

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