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Growth effects in tropical nickel-agromining ‘metal crops' in response to nutrient dosing

Abstract : Agromining is an emerging technology that utilizes selected ‘metal crops' (= hyperaccumulator plants) to extract valuable target metals from unconventional resources for profit from mineralised soils. Growth characteristics, shoot metal concentrations, and agrominable locations are important considerations in economic agromining. Globally, the greatest potential for nickel (Ni) agromining exists in the tropics. However, the agronomic systems of tropical ‘metal crops' have not been previously tested. Furthermore, it is currently unknown whether nutrient dosing of prospective tropical agromining Ni ‘metal crops’ could possibly cause a shoot Ni‐dilution effect which may ultimately limit economically viable Ni yields. We undertook a pioneering study on Ni uptake and growth responses to nutrient dosing in two promising tropical ‘metal crops' (Phyllanthus rufuschaneyi and Rinorea cf. bengalensis). The experiment consisted of a large randomised block growth trial in large pots over 12 months in Sabah (Malaysia). At 3‐month intervals, the plants were exposed to soluble treatments that altered available concentrations of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). We found strong positive growth responses to N and P additions in P. rufuschaneyi, whereas K additions had negative growth effects. In R. cf. bengalensis, all treatments had positive growth effects. The increases in biomass in response to nutrient dosing did not significantly reduce shoot Ni concentrations in both species, with the exception of N addition in P. rufuschaneyi. This study reveals that Ni uptake and growth responses to nutrient dosing are species‐dependent, primarily influenced by the ecophysiology of the species. Inorganic fertilization could possibly be an important component of the management of local ‘metal crops' to be used in viable commercial agromining in the tropics, but this needs to be tested in the field with different formulations of N, P, and K.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, January 6, 2021 - 10:18:56 AM
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Philip Nti Nkrumah, Guillaume Echevarria, Peter Erskine, Rufus Chaney, Sukaibin Sumail, et al.. Growth effects in tropical nickel-agromining ‘metal crops' in response to nutrient dosing. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, Wiley-VCH Verlag, 2019, 182 (5), pp.715-728. ⟨10.1002/jpln.201800468⟩. ⟨hal-03099356⟩



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