Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Taking the petals to the metals

Media Release
18 October 2001


Taking the petals to the metals


The human response to stress is to fight or flee, but modern medical sciences counsel us to choose a middle option and flow. Using relaxation techniques when it’s not sensible to fight or flee is a great option, and one that is also being applied to the world of plants.

Instead of deciding whether contaminated land must be fought - capped or bulldozed - or just fled from, we can use plants to let it flow. The proper name for this is phytoremediation, from the Greek phyto, meaning plant. Remember it by thinking “Fight or mediate.” It’s an active and targeted way of achieving something that might otherwise happen, but haphazardly: with the emphasis on ‘hazard’.

A demonstration of how this works occurred in 1999 when HortResearch was asked by Fletcher Challenge Forests to assist them in the clean up of a five hectare disused sawdust pile. The sawdust was contaminated by a cocktail of heavy metals as well as an organic timber preservative. One plan was to cap and contain the site because its toxins were leaching into surrounding waterways – a typical fight-back reaction.

HortResearch scientists were able to offer a better, and cheaper, solution. The site was planted in poplar and willow varieties that have been specially selected and bred for such work. As the trees grow, they are consuming large amounts of water as well as toxins, which means substantially less is leaching.

More dramatically, the collapse of a dam containing mine tailings caused damage to 4,000 hectares of farmland in Spain, a problem to which our scientist Dr Brett Robinson helped offer a similar solution. Cleaning up the disaster will take a very long time, but interim gains in timber harvest will bring something positive out of the vast sea of metallic mud.

This connection between plants and mines is an interesting twist to an old piece of knowledge. Certain metal-loving plants were once looked for to identify places where those metals could be mined. Now we are more likely to be taking the plants to the metals. Any scenic features or spring blossoms will be an added bonus.


Words 356

For further information please contact
Dr Brent Clothier, HortResearch
Private Bag 11 030, Palmerston North, New Zealand
BClothier@hortresearch.co.nz
Tel +64-6-356 8080 ext 7733

Photo available as JPG, please contact
MEder@hortresearch.co.nz
Tel +64-6-351 7000 ext 7728

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 


Stats: Auckland’s Population Falls For The First Time
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand’s population growth slowed down with Auckland recording a population decline for the first time ever, Stats NZ said today. “New Zealand saw slowing population growth in all regions... More>>



BusinessNZ: Third Snapshot Report Reveals $9.5 Billion Business Investment In Climate Action

Signatories to the Climate Leaders Coalition have committed to invest $9.5 billion over the next five years to reduce emissions from their businesses, as revealed in their third anniversary snapshot report released today... More>>

Digitl: The home printer market is broken
Printers are more of a security blanket that a serious aid to productivity. Yet for many people they are not optional.
Even if you don’t feel the urge to squirt ink onto dead trees in order to express yourself, others will insist on printed documents... More>>


Retail NZ: Some Good News In COVID Announcements, But Firm Dates Needed

Retail NZ is welcoming news that the Government is increasing financial support for businesses in light of the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown, and that retail will be able to open at all stages of the new “Covid Protection Framework... More>>

ComCom: Companies In Hot Water For Selling Unsafe Hot Water Bottles And Toys

A wholesaler and a retailer have been fined a total of $140,000 under the Fair Trading Act for selling hot water bottles and toys that did not comply with mandatory safety requirements. Paramount Merchandise Company Limited (Paramount) was fined $104,000 after pleading guilty in the Manukau District Court... More>>



Reserve Bank: Robust Balance Sheets Yield Faster Economic Recovery

Stronger balance sheets for households, businesses, financial institutions and the government going into the pandemic contributed towards maintaining a sound financial system and yielding a faster economic recovery than following previous deep recessions... More>>