Plant and Soil

, Volume 73, Issue 2, pp 227–237 | Cite as

Alfalfa,Medicago sativa L., establishment in mine mill tailings

I. Plant analysis of alfalfa grown on iron and copper tailings
  • S. G. Shetron


Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) cv. Vernal, was established in iron and copper tailings, a mine waste, to observe its growth and development. In tailings, organic matter and nitrogen are essentially nonexistent, phosphorus levels are low (2–4 kg/ha), potassium, calcium, magnesium and metals range in availability, have alkaline pH (7.2–8.3) and low cation exchange capacity (1.03–3.97 meq/100 g).

Alfalfa plants were selected in four year old stands for plant analysis pof whole tops and roots. Levels of nitrogen (2.00–2.56% ash), phosphorus (.16–22% ash) and magnesium (.17%–48% ash) in whole tops were considered in a deficiency range. Potassium and calcium levels were sufficient. Levels of metals in whole tops varied with concentrations in the tailings. The highest metal concentration was iron which ranged from a low in whole tops of 961 ppm in tailings having 1925 ppm, to a high of 5347 ppm in tailings with 2562 ppm. Geneally, metal concentrations were higher in roots whereas nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus lower than whole tops.

Key words

Alfalfa Copper tailings Iron tailings Medicago sativa Mineral content Mine wastes Plant analysis 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Barbes S A 1974 Influence of the plant root on ion movement in soil. pp 525–564.In The Plant Root and Its Environment. Ed E W Carson, Charlottesville, Univ. Press Virginia.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bickoff E M, Kohler G O and Smith Dale 1972 Chemical composition of the herbage. pp 247–282.In Alfalfa Science and Technology. Ed. C H Hanson. Agronomy Series No. 15, Amer. Soc. of Agron., Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Bingham F T 1963 Relation between phosphorus and micronutrient in plants. Soil Sc. Soc. Am. Proc. 27, 389–391Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Black C A 1968 Soil-Plant Relationships. John Wiely & Sons. New York. 792 p.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Brow A L, Krantz B A and Martin P E 1964 The residual effect of zinc applied to soils. Soil Sc. Soc. Am. Proc. 28, 236–238.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Christian K R 1977 Effects of the environment on the growth of alfalfa. pp 183–227.In Advances in Agronomy. Ed N C Brady. Academic Press, New York.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dean, P A and Erbisch F H 1978 Comparison of roots and stems of alfalfa grown on soil and copper tailings. Michigan Bot. 17, 173–177.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dean D A, Havens R, Harper K T and Rosenbaum J B 1973 Vegetative stabilization of mill mineral wastes. pp 119–136.In Ecology and Reclamation of Devaswtated Lands Vol. 2. Eds. R T Hutnik and G. Davis. Gordon and Breach, New York.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Foy C D, Chancy R L and White M C 1978 The Physiology oof metal toxicity in plants. pp 511–566.In Annu. Rev. Plant Physiol. 29.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Jones J Benton 1972 Plant tissue analysis for micronutrients. pp 319–346.In Micronutrients in Agriculture. Ed. J J Mortvedt. Soil Sc. Soc. Am. Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Martin W E and Matcocha J E 1973 Plant analysis as an aid in the fertilization of crops. pp 393–426.In Soil Testing and Plant Analysis. Eds. Walsh, and Beaton. Soil Sci. Soc. Am., Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Munns D N 1965 Soil acidity and growth of a legume III Interaction of lime and phosphate on growth ofMedicago sativa L. In relation to aluminum toxicity and phosphate fixiation. Aust J Agric. Res. 16, 757–766.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Olsen S R 1972 Micronutrient interaction. pp 243–264.In Micronutrients in Agriculture. Ed. J J Mortvedt. Soil Sci. Soc. Am., Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ouelette G J and Dessureau 1958 Chemical composition of alfalfa as related to degree of tolerance to manganese and aluminum. Can. J. Plant Sic. 38, 206–214.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Rhykerd C L and Overdahl C J 1972 Nutrition and Fertilizer Use. pp 437–468.In Alfalfa Science and Technologyu. Ed. C H Hanson. Agron. No. 15. A.S.A., Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Soil conservation Service 1972 Soil survey laboratory methods and produres for collecting soil samples. U.S.D.A Soil Conservation Service, Soil Survey Inves. Report No. 1, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Shetron S G and Duffek R G 1970 Establishing vegetation on iron mine tailings. J. Soil Water Cons. 25, 227–230.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Shetron S G, Hamil B M, Jurgenson MF, Seppall R T, Jones L, Lennox L and Prather J 1977 Establishing vegetation on alkaline iron and copper tailings. Mich. Dept. Nat. Res. Geological Survey Division. Report of Invest. 17. 14 pp.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Shetron S G 1978 Chemical composition of alfalfa (Medicago sativa, L.) grown on iron and copper mine mil wastes. pp 311–318In Surface mining and fish/wildlife needs in Eastern United States. Ed D E Samaual et al. U. S Fish and Wildife Ser. FWS/OBS, Morgantown, W.V.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Shetron S G and Spindler J J 1983 Alfalfa,Medicago sativa, L. establishment in mine mill tailings. II Root patterns of alfalfa in iron tailings and natural soils. Plant and Soil 73, 239–246.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Smith Dale and Rohweder Dwayne A 1977 Establishing and managing alfalfa. Bull. R1741 Research Division, Coll. Agric. Life Sci., Univ. of Wis., Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Taylor R W and Allinson D W 1981 Influence of lead, cadmium and nickel on the growth ofMedicago sativa (L). Plant and Soil 60, 223–236.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tisdale S L and Nelson W L 1975 Soil fertility and fertilizers. 3rd Ed. Macmillan Publ. Comp., New York. 693 p.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Wiconsin Procedure for soil testing, plant analysis land feed and forage analysis. 1980 Ed. E A Leigel. C R Simson, E E Schulte, Dept. Soil Sc. Univ. Wisc., Ex. Madison, Wisconsin.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinu Nijhoff/Dr W. Junk Publishers 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. G. Shetron
    • 1
  1. 1.Ford Forestry CenterMichigan Technological UniversityL'Anse

Personalised recommendations