Restoring the plant productivity of heavy metal-contaminated soil using phosphate sludge, marble waste, and beneficial microorganisms

Khalid Oufdou , Anas Raklami , Abdel-ilah Tahiri , Noura Bechtaoui , El Gharmali Abdelhay , Eloisa Pajuelo , Marouane Baslam , Abdelilah Meddich


Received March 17, 2020,Revised , Accepted June 29, 2020, Available online July 07, 2020

Volume 33,2021,Pages 210-221

Assisted natural remediation (ANR) has been highlighted as a promising, less expensive, and environmentally friendly solution to remediate soil contaminated with heavy metals. We tested the effects of three amendments (10% compost, C; 5 or 15% phosphate sludge, PS5 and PS15; and 5 or 15% marble waste, MW5 and MW15) in combination with microorganism inoculation (rhizobacteria consortium alone, mycorrhizae alone, and the two in-combination) on alfalfa in contaminated soil. Plant concentrations of Zn, Cu, and Pb were measured, along with proline and malondialdehyde production. The microbiological and physicochemical properties of the mining soil were evaluated. Application of the amendments allowed germination and promoted growth. Inoculation with the rhizobacteria consortium and/or mycorrhizae stimulated plant growth. PS and MW stimulated the production of proline. Inoculation of alfalfa with the rhizobacteria-mycorrhizae mixture and the application of MW allowed the safe cultivation of the legume, as shown by the low concentrations of metals in plant shoots. Zn and Pb concentrations were below the limits recommended for animal grazing and accumulated essentially in roots. Soil analyses showed the positive effect of the amendments on the soil physicochemical properties. All treatments increased soil pH (around 7), total organic carbon, and assimilable phosphorus content. Notably, an important decrease in soluble heavy metals concentrations was observed. Overall, our findings revealed that the applied treatments reduced the risk of metal-polluted soils limiting plant growth. The ANR has great potential for success in the restoration of polymetallic and acidic mining soils using the interaction between alfalfa, microorganisms, and organo-mineral amendments.

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