Nickel-Eating Plant May Have Ag Applications, Scientists Say

Nickel-Eating Plant May Have Ag Applications, Scientists Say

Are you a picky eater? Probably not as picky as this plant.


Scientists have discovered a new plant species that actually eats nickel to survive. The plant, discovered by researchers at University of the Philippines, Los Baños, is one of just 450 plants in the world known to have this trait, and researchers say it may have agricultural applications.


2014-12-15_082607Able to intake up to 18,000 ppm of nickel in its leaves, which is about a hundred to a thousand times higher than most other species, the Rinorea niccolifera is known as a “hyperaccumulator” plant. It was discovered in the western part of Luzon Island in the Philippines, and falls into the 05.-1 percent of plants that are native to nickel-rich soils able to survive–and even thrive in–the harsh conditions.


Researchers say the trait could be put to practical use, and lead to better agriculture.


“Hyperacccumulator plants have great potentials for the development of green technologies,” said co-author of the study, Dr. Augustine Doronila of the School of Chemistry at the University of Melbourne. “For example, ‘phytoremediation’ and ‘phytomining’.”

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Phytoremediation is a process in which plants such as the Rinorea niccolifera are used to clean heavy-metals from soils to make the land more viable for other plant life. Phytomining, on the other hand, is the use of the hyperaccumulator species to extract the metals to sell the commercially valuable material.



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