Environmental Geochemistry and Health

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 123–130 | Cite as

The Effect of Diesel Fuel on Common Vetch (Vicia Sativa L.) Plants

  • Gillian Adam
  • Harry Duncan


When petroleum hydrocarbons contaminate soil, the carbon:nitrogen (C:N) ratio of the soil is altered. The added carbon stimulates microbial numbers but causes an imbalance in the C:N ratio which may result in immobilization of soil nitrogen by the microbial biomass, leaving none available for plant growth. As members of Leguminosae fix atmospheric nitrogen to produce their own nitrogen for growth, they may prove more successful at growing on petroleum hydrocarbon contaminated sites. During a wider study on phytoremediation of diesel fuel contaminated soil, particular attention was given to the performance of legumes versus other plant species. During harvesting of pot experiments containing leguminous plants, a recurring difference in the number and formation of root nodules present on control and contaminated Common vetch (Vicia sativa L.) plants was observed. The total number of nodules per plant was significantly reduced in contaminated plants compared to control plants but nodules on contaminated plants were more developed than corresponding nodules on control plants. Plant performance of Common vetch and Westerwold's ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum L.) was compared to illustrate any difference between the ability of legumes and grasses to grow on diesel fuel contaminated soil. Common vetch was less affected by diesel fuel and performed better in low levels of diesel fuel contaminated soil than Westerwold’s ryegrass. The total amount of diesel fuel remaining after 4 months in Common vetch planted soil was slightly less than in Westerwold’s ryegrass planted soil.

Common vetch diesel fuel legumes phytoremediation plant performance root nodules Westerwold’s ryegrass 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillian Adam
    • 1
  • Harry Duncan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental, Agricultural and Analytical Chemistry, Joseph Black BuildingUniversity of Glasgow, GlasgowScotlandUK

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