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Poplar-microbe partnerships remove soil pollutant

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Photo: John Freeman/Intrinsyx Technologies Corporation

Sharon Doty, a professor in the School of Environmental and Forestry Sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle and her plant microbiology lab are interested in using natural plant-microbe partnerships to improve plant growth with less input of chemicals and water, to remove environmental pollutants, and to improve the sustainability of bioenergy production.  Her group recently published the results of a successful field trial of a TCE-degrading endophyte, providing for the first time a natural, effective and easily deployable tool for removing this important cancer-causing chemical from the environment.  The trial, on a polluted site in California, used poplar trees inoculated with a natural microbe - or 'probiotic' - to clean up groundwater contaminated with TCE (trichloroethylene), widely used as a degreaser and solvent in industrial manufacturing.  After three years, the inoculated poplars were darker green and taller than poplar trees which were not given the bacteria (centre row in photo).  This phytotechnology is attracting active interest from a number of organizations and owners of polluted sites, who are starting to use the process.

The results of the trial were published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.  Read the abstract and access the article.  This news item is based on a University of Washington news release by Michelle Ma.  The full news release can be accessed at http://www.washington.edu/news/2017/08/14/probiotics-help-poplar-trees-clean-up-toxins-in-superfund-sites/.

View short video on Dr. Doty's work.  Entitled "Power of Plant Partnerships" and produced by the genomics company Illumina for their series on "Adventures in Genomics", the video was shot in the field in the beautiful Snoqualmie Valley of Washington State.