Poplars and willows are the first species to naturally revegetate disturbed and contaminated soils. They have also been planted for centuries for environmental reclamation and restoration. In the 1990’s a “green technology” emerged termed “phytoremediation” (phyto) where plants are used to clean up contaminated soils and water. Clean up goals are accomplished using six mechanisms: phytoextraction, phyto- volatilization, rhizosphere degradation, phytodegradation, phytostabilization, and hydraulic control. Poplars and willows are preferred “phyto” species used in hundreds of applications across North America, because they grow rapidly, have many deep roots and take up large quantities of water. Their roots also provide surface area for beneficial microbes that facilitate remediation. Important aspects of phyto are: choosing species, meeting regulator clean-up goals, maintaining plantings, and monitoring contaminant uptake. Examples of representative current phyto applications will be given.
This project is supported by an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30407 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).