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Science: Hyperaccumulators


Walker Art Center



Institution Walker Art Center
Plant list for year one, Revival Field:
Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens, Derbyshire ecotype)
Alpine pennycress (Thlaspi caerulescens, Belgium ecotype)
Bladder campion (Silene cucubalus, Palmerton ecotype)
Corn, Cd-accumulating type Zea mays L.
Red fescue (Festuca rubra, cultivar "Merlin")
Romaine lettuce (Lactuca sativa, cultivar "Paris Island")

Dr. Rufus L. Chaney, research agronomist at the U. S. Department of Agriculture Soil-Microbial Systems Laboratory and adviser on the Revival Field project, describes the sculpture:

From a scientific viewpoint, this piece . . . is a field test of a new technology to remove selected heavy metals (zinc, cadmium, nickel) from polluted soils in place. In this method, unusual "hyperaccumulator" plant species are grown on polluted soils. (Hyperaccumulator plants pull toxic metals from the polluted soil through their root systems. Normal plants, for instance, stop growing when the amount of zinc in their leaves reaches more than 500 milligrams per kilogram. Hyperaccumulator plants can still grow with up to 250,000 milligrams of zinc per kilogram in their leaves.) When a large biomass (refers to the size of the plant) has grown, the plants are cut and dried like hay, and baled for transport. The plant is burned to concentrate the ore (toxic metal). The site manager could control erosion, and use fertilizers and soil pH modifying agents to maintain high uptake of metal over time until the plants have removed sufficient of the pollutant metals that the site is no longer an environmental hazard. For more highly polluted soils, a longer period may be required to achieve bioremediation. The value of metals recovered can offset the cost of the "green remediation" technology, greatly reducing the economic cost to society. Further, no landfills are needed for the deposit of polluted soil.
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Type: Commentary, online content
Source: Science: Hyperaccumulators, from the website Global Positioning: Exploring Contemporary World Art, 2003.
Rights: Copyright 2003 Walker Art Center
Added to Site: March 1, 2009