Plant enhancement of indigenous soil micro-organisms: a low-cost treatment of contaminated soils Academic Article uri icon


  • AbstractThe United States has more than 1000 individual areas of petroleum-contaminated soil at formerly used defense (FUD) sites located in cold regions. This paper investigates biotreatment systems based on exploiting naturally occurring phenomena in the rhizosphere the soil adjacent to and influenced by plant roots. Rhizosphere-based remediation systems would be inexpensive to implement and maintain and would be applicable to remote or permafrost sites. Herein, this paper provides the rationale for using rhizosphere-based biotreatment systems and some initial results. In both laboratory and field studies, successful plant germination, plant growth, and root intrusion into and through contaminated soil are demonstrated.Using a Captina silt loam in a 10-week laboratory study, the effects of vegetation and contamination on microbial numbers were compared. The vegetation treatments included an unvegetated control and a vegetated treatment seeded with bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum). The contamination treatments included an uncontaminated control and a treatment with 2000 mg pyrene kg-1 soil added. Microbial numbers at 10 weeks were not significantly influenced by the contaminant level of 2000 mg pyrene kg-1 soil compared to the control. However, microbial numbers were greater in the rhizosphere of the bahiagrass-vegetated soil compared to the unvegetated soil.In a 34-week field study, total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) concentrations of a diesel-contaminated soil decreased significantly more in the rhizosphere+nutrient treatment compared to the control that was not vegetated or fertilized. Bacterial numbers in the field study were 287 times greater in the rhizosphere+nutrient treated soils than in the control treatments. Measurable TPH compounds in the plant tissue were insignificant. The data demonstrated that rhizosphereenhanced treatment of organic-contaminated soils can be effective in reducing soil petroleum concentrations and may be a cost-effective strategy particularly suited for treating cold-region sites where remediation options are limited by cost, remoteness of the site, and/or brevity of the treatment season.

published proceedings

  • Polar Record

author list (cited authors)

  • Reynolds, C. M., Wolf, D. C., Gentry, T. J., Perry, L. B., Pidgeon, C. S., Koenen, B. A., Rogers, H. B., & Beyrouty, C. A.

citation count

  • 23

complete list of authors

  • Reynolds, CM||Wolf, DC||Gentry, TJ||Perry, LB||Pidgeon, CS||Koenen, BA||Rogers, HB||Beyrouty, CA

publication date

  • January 1999