Absolutely amazing and innovative: the development of phytoremediation technologies for the clean up of contaminated soils. The process of phytoremediation in nature involves plants doing some pretty incredible things. Phytoremediation refers to the natural ability of certain plants called “hyperaccumulators” to accumulate and then render harmless contaminants in soils, water or air. Contaminants such as metals, pesticides, solvents, explosives, crude oil and its derivatives, have been mollified in phytoremediation projects worldwide. The development of exciting technologies copying this natural process to perform more in-depth soil remediation is on its way. Plants such as mustard plants, alpine pennycress and pigweed have proven to be successful at absorbing contaminants at toxic waste sites. This type of remediation alleviates environmental problems through the use of plants without the need to excavate the contaminant material and dispose of it elsewhere.
Phytoremediation may be used wherever the soil or standing water environment has become polluted. Phytoremediation has been used successfully in the restoration of abandoned metal-mine workings and reducing the impact of sites where PCBs have been dumped during manufacture.
The “gene jockeys” who are conducting these exotic experiments envision a future in which plants can be used as an inexpensive, safer and more effective way of disposing of pollution. “Trees are really made for this … we just have to trick them to do what we want them to do,” said Richard Meagher, a Research Professor of Genetics at The University of Georgia.