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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Plant Uptake of Heavy Metals from Soils Amended with Power Plant Scrubber Sludge

item Dowdy, Robert

Submitted to: Heavy Metals Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: September 18, 1995
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Judicious application of the by-products of coal-fired electrical power generation (scrubber sludge) to agricultural lands may provide both an outlet for their disposal and benefit crop production by acting as a liming agent and source of essential plant nutrients. Unfortunately, these materials also contain heavy metals and other chemical elements that may reduce plant growth. To address these concerns, elemental uptake by ryegrass was determined from soil/scrubber sludge mixtures using materials from four electrical power generating plants. Increased uptake of only three chemical elements (boron, sulfur, and molybdenum), out of a total of twenty-four elements, was observed. These three elements are essential for plant growth, but were not accumulated at toxic levels. This knowledge will be used to help develop farming systems for beneficial use of these by-products in agriculture, benefiting all consumers of electricity.

Technical Abstract: A pot study was conducted to determine heavy metal uptake by ryegrass from two soils amended with four levels of scrubber sludge residues from four different coal-fired power plants. Plant uptake of most elements either decreased significantly over that from the controls, mainly due to pH effects on the equilibrium solubility of most metals, or showed no significant trends. Significant increases were observed only for boron, sulfur, and molybdenum

Last Modified: 4/21/2015