Sunday, March 8, 2015

A New Solution for Growing Crops in Radiation Contaminated Soil

Photo Source: Riken
There is exciting news in the soil contamination community this week. If you have been following our blog recently you already know about the devastating effect soil contamination can have on crops and the communities who rely on those crops for nutrition as well as making a living. When crop soil is contaminated it can be very dangerous for the health of consumers. While there are ways to clean and improve many types of contaminants in soil, figuring out how to combat radiation contaminated soil is a problem being faced in Japan right now. 

The accident at the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 lead to contamination of nearby soil and is having lasting effects on crop growth and crop safety. According to the Riken Center for Sustainable Resource Science in Japan there is a “higher-than-natural levels of radiocesium in some regions of Japan, with cesium-134 and cesium-137 being the most troublesome because of the slow rate at which they decay”. A researcher at Riken, Ryoung Shin, has found a solution to allow crops to grow without taking up the cesium through their roots. This not only allows the plant to thrive but also decreases the health effects it has on human consumers. The technique they use is called phytostabilization and involves adding a chemical component called CsTolen A to the soil which then binds to the cesium and limits plant absorption. The Riken group is optimistic about their findings and say that it “shed[s] some light on the possibility of using chemicals to prevent agricultural products from being contaminated.” This is great news for Japanese farmers who may be able to more safely grow crops where soil is contaminated with cesium. It will be interesting to see what other chemicals can be fought in the future using this technology.

If you want to read more about this process check out the article here and if you want to get really technical about the process go here.

What do you think about this discovery? I wonder what implications this will hold for the future of soil contamination?

By: Amber Page

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