Boron suckers

Plants to clean up toxic soil

Published: Thursday 15 July 2004

turkish scientists have discovered a plant that can remove boron from soils. They say that it could provide a low cost method to clean up soil contaminated with the naturally-occurring trace element, which is toxic to most crops at high concentrations. Scientists from Selcuk University found that Gypsophila sphaerocephala -- a plant that usually grows on dry slopes and limestone rocks -- can survive in contaminated soil and accumulates boron in its tissues.

As per the scientists, once the plant has been harvested from polluted sites, it could be transported to places having low levels of boron.

The findings are significant -- conventional methods of removing boron, such as leaching or increasing the ph, have proved unsuitable for many regions due to a variety of reasons, including low rainfall or lack of high lime content in the soil. Furthermore, such techniques are expensive, requiring chemical additives and regular maintenance. They also generate hazardous byproducts such as chemical sludge, thereby leading to ecodegradation. According to the scientists, developing boron-tolerant crops with the help of biotechnology, or using boron-accumulating plants is a more viable option for worldwide application.

High levels of boron have been reported to have effects in several southern European countries and Mediterranean nations, especially in the dry regions of Jordan, Israel and Cyprus.

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