Use of the halophyte Sarcocornia utahensis as a phytoremediation strategy for the amelioration of saline-sodic impacted soils . . .

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Department of Agriculture
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Phase I
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Small Business Information
110 PROGRESSIVE DR, Belgrade, MT, 59714
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
Principal Investigator:
Laura Smith
(406) 388-1116
Business Contact:
Laura Smith
(406) 388-1116
Research Institution:
The environmental impacts of coal bed methane development (CBM) in Montana and the Rocky Mountain States are well documented. CBM exploration is expanding rapidly with the nation's focus on energy independence and the relative ease of extraction. Extraction of CBM necessitates pumping large volumes of often saline discharge waters to the surface. The impacts of those waters include: reductions in the quality and quantity of surface and sub-surface waters for drinking and agricultural purposes; increased salt levels to drainage wetlands and major river systems which can increase the salt levels of irrigation water; increased contamination of surface water; loss of productive agricultural rangeland; irreversible physical and chemical damage to agricultural and rangeland soils; changes in native plant communities and dependent wildlife; and increased soil erosion and resultant dust pollution. The EPA has stated that CBM development is the single greatest environmental challenge facing the Intermountain West. Between 2 to 4 trillion gallons of discharge water will be pumped on to the surface in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana alone over the next 20 years. CBM development is also at center stage of an enormous amount of litigation involving landowners, state and federal agencies, energy exploration companies, environmental groups, and in some cases between states (Montana vs. Wyoming), as rivers and aquifers traverse state boundaries. The use of plants to remove various pollutants from soil and water (phytoremediation) is an area receiving widespread attention. Phytoremediation is seen as a relatively "low-tech" methodology for ameliorating pollutants and is far more cost effective than complex treatment facilities. Halophytes are a group of salt resistant plants which have demonstrated abilities to evaporate large volumes of saline water and to remove substantial amounts of detrimental salts from impacted soils. The use and efficacy of these plants in many temperate/tropical areas of the world is well established. The goal of this research is to develop a cost effective, cold climate, plant-based system to remediate saline impacted soils lands in Montana and Wyoming so that native vegetation or saline tolerant agricultural crops could be re-established. The optimal outcome will be a situation where land owners, exploration companies, agronomists, wetland engineers and government agencies will work together to establish and manage these salt remediating species in conjunction with dispersal of discharge waters. The expected long-term benefits of this research include: remediation of salinized lands, improved water quality for both human and agricultural purposes, reduction of CBM impacts on associated wetlands, soil erosion, native plant communities, and dependent wildlife populations. Several of the candidate species identified by Westcape also bring the additional benefits of being a potential source for non-food biofuel for localized use as well as a large scale carbon sequestration mechanism.

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