Faculty Publications


Phytostabilization of metal mine tailings using tall fescue

Document Type



Heavy metals, Kansas, Mine waste, Soil pollution, Tailings

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Practice Periodical of Hazardous, Toxic, and Radioactive Waste Management





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Mined areas near the city of Galena, Kansas, provide a source of heavy metal contamination, particularly cadmium (Cd), lead (Pb), and zinc (Zn). The metals move off-site in response to erosion by wind and running water, spreading the contamination beyond its original extent. Phytostabilization of the mine tailings could limit the spread of these heavy metals. The purpose of this study was to attempt field-scale inoculation of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb) with mycorrhizal fungi to enhance growth and survival on a metal-contaminated mine spoil, and to study the influence of cattle manure as a soil amendment on basic soil chemical properties and on the chemical fractionation of Cd, Pb, and Zn. No evidence of successful infection by mycorrhizal fungi was found. After the first growing season, vegetative cover reached 71% but then steadily declined to 29% over the next two growing seasons. Extractable soil phosphorus (P) levels remained constant throughout the study and were sufficient for normal plant growth. Extractable potassium (K) levels declined throughout the study and were not sufficient for normal plant growth after the third year. Soil pH decreased from an average of 7.9 early in the study to 6.5 at the end. Plant tissue Zn concentrations suggested Zn phytotoxicity that became worse over the course of the study. Manure increased the amount of organically bound metals and generally decreased exchangeable levels. Between the first and third years of the study, exchangeable forms of metals generally increased while residual forms decreased. These changes are likely the result of the soil acidification that occurred during this same period, and may have contributed to the decline in fescue productivity because of increased problems with Zn phytotoxicity.

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DOI of published version