Phytoextraction of Zn and Cu from sewage sludge and impact on agronomic characteristics

Liu Xiaomei, Wu Qitang, M. K. Banks, S. D. Ebbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The presence of elevated concentrations of heavy metals limits the usage of sewage sludge as a fertilizer and soil amendment. Experiments were carried out to examine the extent to which seven plant species phytoextracted Zn and Cu from dewatered sludge. The hyperaccumulators Thlaspi caerulescens and Sedum alfredii showed the greatest removal of Zn, while shoots and tubers of two species of Alocasia showed the greatest Cu removal. Cultivation of plants in the sludge resulted in significant decreases in total Zn and changes in the partitioning of Zn between soil pools. However, Cu levels were largely unchanged and remained associated predominantly with the organic matter pool. Agronomic characteristics of the sludge material, such as pH, organic matter content, and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium concentrations, did not change significantly during the four-month growth period, indicating that subsequent crops could be sustained by this material. These results suggest that Zn can be phytoextracted from sludge material, provided the rate of metal uptake exceeds the rate of mobilization to the exchangeable fraction. Since there was no appreciable accumulation of Zn and Cu in seeds of Zea mays in this study, some tissues from sludge-grown plants could potentially be used as animal fodder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)823-838
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Environmental Science and Health - Part A Toxic/Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005


  • Heavy metals
  • Phytoremediation
  • Sewage sludge
  • Thlaspi caerulescens

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering


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