Giant Napier Grass could cure contaminated land

A joint Chinese and Australian project has proved a new way to remediate polluted former industrial land.

Work between researchers from Australia's CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE) and its offshore partners HLM Asia Group and Shaoguan University has shown Giant Napier Grass can clean land.

And, the grass once it has grown and helped to pull the pollution out of the ground can then be used as a renewable power source.

The fast growing Giant Napier Grass can not only be used to cleanse affected soils of contaminants, but can then be converted to ethanol for transport fuel or steam for electricity production.

Biomass harvested from an experimental plantation at Shaoguan University, Guangdong Province, China, is already being used to generate electricity for 100 households - and the team is already working to share the breakthrough internationally, through a new project in Nigeria.

CRC CARE managing director professor, Ravi Naidu, said: "There were several stages to the project.

"First we had to mass produce a newly developed strain of Napier Grass that is fast-growing and has high energy value, which we did using plant tissue culture techniques.

"This plant grows well on degraded land and produces high yields, in field research we have been able to show it can be used for phytoremediation, which is the use of plants to extract particular minerals and metals from contaminated soils selectively, using their roots.

"By continually planting and harvesting these crops, you can lower the level of toxicity in the soil and make the land fit for human uses again, including for housing."

Luke Walsh


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