Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Oats Clean Nuke Contamination

Naked oats can remove radioactive strontium from soils after a nuclear accident, according to a study published in the International Journal of Phytoremediation.

“Food is the most important pathway of strontium into humans, and high doses of strontium increases the risk of cancers and may induce skeletal abnormalities,” said co-author Prof Kadambot Siddique of The University of Western Australia. “Phyto­extraction of soils contaminated with heavy metals uses plants which take up contaminants and accumulate them to elevated levels in the shoots. The plants are then safely disposed of.”

The research team studied 26 species that accumulate high levels of heavy metals, and quantified the influence, uptake and translocation of strontium on the growth of the plants. At maturity, the naked oat cultivar Neimengkeyimai-1 had the highest strontium content at all strontium levels.

“Naked oat plants could be selected for phytoremediation to clean up contaminated soil, and Neimengkeyimai-1 in particular could be used as a model for further research as a starting point for finding more effective cultivars,” Siddique said.