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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Plant and Environment Interactions

Barley, a Potential Species for Initial Reclamation of Saline Composite Tailings of Oil Sands


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 32 No. 6, p. 2245-2253
    Received: Dec 13, 2002

    * Corresponding author(s): renaults@cc.umanitoba.ca
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  1. Sylvie Renault *a,
  2. Mike MacKinnonb and
  3. Clara Qualizzac
  1. a Department of Botany, 505 Buller Building, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB, Canada R3T 2N2
    b Syncrude Canada Ltd., Edmonton Research Center, 9421-17 Avenue, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6N 1H4
    c Syncrude Canada Ltd., Environmental Center, Fort McMurray, AB, Canada T9H 3H5


The oil sands industry in Alberta (Canada) has developed the composite tailings (CT) process to reduce the fluid fine tails resulting from the processing of oil sands. This process uses a chemical coagulant (gypsum or alum) to produce aggregated fines (clay), so they are retained with the coarse sand fraction of the extraction tailings to form CT, from which fines-free water is released relatively quickly compared with untreated tailings. The resulting CT and CT waters are saline-sodic, with Na+, SO2− 4, and Cl being the dominant ions. When freshly deposited, the CT deposits are too soft for access by reclamation equipment, and the time required for these deposits to remove the water sufficiently to support traffic is uncertain. A greenhouse study was designed to determine the suitability of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) for reclamation of fresh CT deposits and to evaluate benefits of peat amendments. This study assessed germination, early plant growth, chlorophyll content, and survival of barley growing in alum- and gypsum-treated CT, with and without peat amendment. Ion and trace metal accumulation in the root and shoot tissues of barley was determined. Amendment of CT with peat improved germination, survival, and growth of barley, but did not prevent leaf injury (probably due to Na and Cl and possibly multiple nutrient deficiency). Field studies will be undertaken to validate our greenhouse results suggesting that barley could be used to improve dewatering of the freshly deposited substrates, reduce soil erosion, and facilitate leaching of ions by root penetration into the substrate.

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Copyright © 2003. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA