A Multi-disciplinary Challenge for Phytoremediation of Metal-Polluted Pyrite Waste

  • Teofilo VameraliEmail author
  • Marianna Bandiera
  • Giuliano Mosca
Part of the Soil Biology book series (SOILBIOL, volume 35)


Phytomanagement of metal-polluted land is receiving increasing attention as an alternative to physical and chemical methods of decontamination. Great concern focuses on metal-contaminated industrial waste or sediments, the unusual compositions of which may further limit plant establishment and growth. In this study, we focused attention on a particular industrial waste made of pyrite cinders with high levels of As, Cd, Co, Cu, Pb and Zn, which had been covered in the past with 0.15 m of unpolluted gravelly soil, later colonised by sparse spontaneous vegetation. In these conditions, on-site phytoextraction with field crops and Salicaceae woody species was rarely efficient, except for Zn, Cu and Mn. Although the estimated remediation time was extremely long, even for removing the metal-bioavailable fraction, phytomanagement can stabilise waste against wind erosion and metal movements. Poor above-ground productivity was the main factor constraining phytoextraction. Among a few crops, a maximum of 0.33 kg of metals per hectare was accumulated in the harvestable biomass of fodder radish, whereas a great stock of metals was found at root level, especially in coarse roots of Populus and Salix, suggesting the opportunity of exploiting in planta root stabilisation. For suitable cultivation of the site and to favour root growth, we recommend limiting top soil/waste mixing (shallow soil capping) and paying particular attention to species choice, fertilisation and drainage/irrigation.

In order to facilitate the management of pyrite, on the model plant fodder radish we tested whether or not treatments with auxins (IBA, indolebutyric acid), humic acids or chelators (EDDS, ethylene-diamine-disuccinic acid) have a positive impact on growth and metal uptake. They all not only increased metal concentrations in plant tissues, especially Cu with EDDS, but also caused marked biomass and removal reduction. The weak chelant ability of IBA and humic acids and little information in the literature hinder choice of the appropriate dosages and times of application of these compounds.

It is concluded that the phytomanagement of markedly altered substrates such as pyrite cinders requires a new multi-disciplinary approach, involving genetics, biology, physiology and especially agronomy, to maximise plant adaptation and growth.


Humic Acid Italian Ryegrass White Poplar Increase Metal Concentration Biomass Species 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Teofilo Vamerali
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marianna Bandiera
    • 2
  • Giuliano Mosca
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Food SciencesUniversity of ParmaParmaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Agronomy, Food, Natural Resources, Animals and the EnvironmentUniversity of PadovaLegnaro (Padova)Italy

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