PHYTOTECHNOLOGY – A GREEN KEY TO FIGHTING SOIL POLLUTION

Pollution is a problem which exists in every part of the developed and developing world which causes harm to the ecosystem. Cleaning up such contaminated sites is a must as it will be beneficiary for human health and the environment. Many initiatives have been put forward for controlling pollution in the past two decades. Eco-technology is now in lime-light as the risk associated with it is very less. Eco-technology consists of microbial technology (use of micro-organisms) and phytotechnology (use of plants). Phytotechnology is a set of technologies in which a plant is used to degrade, extract or immobilize the pollutant in order to remediate the environment. It can be applied for treating the contaminated land-fills, groundwater, surface water, and wastewater.

There are six types of mechanism associated with phytotechnology which are listed below:

  1. Phytodegradation:

Contaminants are enzymatically broken down within the plant tissues.

  1. Phytoextraction:

The pollutant or contaminant are sequestered inside the plant

  1. Phytohydraulics:

Containment by controlling the transpiration rate of plants.

  1. Phytosequestration:

Plants secret some phytochemicals, the contaminant are then sequestered near in the rhizosphere. Later taken up by the plant and sequestered into the roots or the stems.

  1. Phytovolatization:

The contaminant is taken up by the plant and volatilized by transpiration stream.

  1. Rhizodegradation:

Combination of microbial cultures and the phytochemicals released by the plant in order to degrade the contaminant.

Unlike other remediation strategies, phytotechnology is site specific. Climate, vegetation and soil type are important parameters which plays a part in better performance of phytotechnology. Evaluation of the site which needs to be cleaned up earlier will help to achieve better remediation. It can be used for remediating organic as well as inorganic pollutants. A few pollutants which can be remediated are volatile organic compounds (VOC), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals and radionucleides.

Advantages of using phytotechnology:

  1. The cost associated with the operations and maintenance are very low.
  2. Plants can improve the air quality
  3. Vegetation can prevent soil erosion
  4. Site aesthetic value can be improved by plantation

Disadvantages of using phytotechnology:

  1. Time period required for remediation comparatively longer than the traditional techniques.
  2. Inappropriate for sites having significant depth
  3. Highly toxic pollutants may cause phytotoxicity, inhibit or prevent the plant growth.
  4. Disposal of the plant material containing the pollutant

The first disadvantage can be solved by selecting a plant having a shorter life cycle as well as effective for treating the pollutants. The second and third one can be solved by applying plant growth promoting microbes which will help the plant withstand adverse condition. The fourth problem can be solved by planning the downstream process. For example, heavy metals can be recovered by using this technology. Jatropha carcus is reportedly used for remediating contaminated sites, which can later be harvested and used for biodiesel production. So, planning the process, using appropriate vegetation can help boost up the process. Phytotechnology is a field which needs to be researched and explored further. It can be a promising tool for cleaning up pollution.

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