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Environmental technology

Capping hazardous red mud using acidic soil with an embedded layer of zeolite for plant growth.


PMID 25145185

Abstract

A nearly three-year microcosm experiment was conducted to test the effectiveness of capping red mud using acidic soil with an embedded layer of zeolite in sustaining the growth of a grass species. This 'sandwich-structured' design allowed self-sustaining growth of the plants under rain-fed conditions no matter whether the underlying red mud was neutralized or not. During the initial stage, the plants grew better when the red mud was not neutralized with MgCl2 probably due to pH rise in the root zone. Neutralization of red mud led to salinization and pH decrease in the root zone. However, the difference in plant growth performance between these scenarios became less remarkable over time due to gradual improvement of soil conditions in the neutralized scenarios. Continuous leaching of soluble salts and alkali by rainwater extended the root zone to the red mud layer. As a result of vegetative production, soil organic matter rapidly accumulated. This, combined with increase in pH and decrease in salinity, markedly facilitated microbial activities and consequently improved the supply of nutrients. This study provides abasis for field-scale experimental design that will have implications for effectively establishing vegetative cover in red mud disposal sites to control dust hazards.