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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Banuelos, Gary
item Lin, Z.
item Wu, L.
item Terry, N.

Submitted to: Reviews on Environmental Health
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/30/2002
Publication Date: 3/10/2003
Citation: Banuelos, G. Z.Q. Lin, L. Wu, N. Terry. reviews on Environmental Health. 2003. 17:291-306.

Interpretive Summary: Interest in selenium remediation technologies has escalated in the past decade. Although not known to be essential for plants, selenium is an essential micronutrient for humans and animals. At high concentrations, however, it becomes toxic to biological systems, as was observed at the Kesterson national wildlife Refuge in central California in the 1980's. Consequently, extensive research has been conducted in the western part of the US and a vast amount of financial resources have been allocated to develop management strategies for reducing the impact of natural-occurring selenium on the environment. A plant-based technology described as "phytoremediation" has received increasing recognition as a low cost and environmentally friendly approach for managing selenium's impact on the environment. Plants have the ability to absorb Se, and convert inorganic Se to volatile forms of selenium that are released into the atmosphere. This review summarizes the most recent research finding about using phytoremediation systems to mitigate selenium-contaminated soils and waters.

Technical Abstract: Phytoremediation is an emerging cost-effective, non-intrusive, esthetically pleasing, and low cost technology using the remarkable ability of plants to concentrate elements, e.g. selenium (Se), and to metabolize Se into various non-toxic forms of Se. The use of plants to transport and concentrate metals from the soil into the harvestable parts of roots and above-ground shoots, has appeared as a valid alternative or as a complimentary strategy to traditional physico-chemical remediation methods. Under field conditions phytoremediation requires an integrated approach, which must consider initial selection of crops, crop rotation, irrigation and drainage water management strategies, chemical and mineralization transformations within the soil, pest management, biomass use, economic feasibility, social acceptance, and a long-term commitment. This review presents data on field research conducted using the principles of phytoremediation to manage Se levels in contaminated sediment, soils, and water.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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