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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 27 No. 1, p. 165-169
    Received: Apr 18, 1997

    * Corresponding author(s): lvk1@cornell.edu
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Phytoremediation of a Radiocesium-Contaminated Soil: Evaluation of Cesium-137 Bioaccumulation in the Shoots of Three Plant Species

  1. Mitch M. Lasat,
  2. Mark Fuhrmann,
  3. Stephen D. Ebbs,
  4. Jay E. Cornish and
  5. Leon V. Kochian *
  1. USDA-ARS, Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853;
    Environmental & Waste Technology Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Bldg. 830, 34 North Railroad St., Upton, New York 11973-5000;
    MSE Technology Applications, Inc., P.O. Box 4078, Butte, MT 59702.



A field study was conducted to investigate the potential of three plant species for phytoremediation of a 137Cs-contaminated site. Approximately 40-fold more 137Cs was removed from the contaminated soil in shoots of red root pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus L.) than in those of Indian mustard [Brassica juncea (L.) Czern] and tepary bean (Phaseolus acutifolius A. Gray). The greater potential for 137Cs removal from the soil by A. retroflexus was associated with both high concentration of 137Cs in shoots and high shoot biomass production. Approximately 3% of the total 137Cs was removed from the top 15 cm of the soil (which contained most of the soil radiocesium) in shoots of 3-too-old A. retroflexus plants. Soil leaching tests conducted with 0.1 and 0.5 M NH4NO3 solutions eluted as much as 15 and 19%, respectively, of the soil 137Cs. Addition of NH4NO3 to the soil, however, had no positive effect on 137Cs accumulation in shoots in any of the species investigated. It is proposed that either NH4NO3 solution quickly percolated through the soil before interacting at specific 137Cs binding sites or radiocesium mobilized by NH4NO3 application moved below the rhizosphere, becoming unavailable for root uptake. Further research is required to optimize the phytotransfer of the NH4NO3-mobilized 137Cs. With two croppings of A. retroflexus per year and a sustained rate of extraction, phytoremediation of this 137Cs-contaminated soil appears feasible in <15 yr.

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