Homepage 2019 » Forums » Plants, Climates and Soils » Rehabilitating toxic / arsenic laden soils

This topic contains 6 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Illiah 5 years, 3 months ago.

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    I may be able to access an old apple orchard of about 8 acres soon. But I hear that apple orchards used to spray lot of pesticides which may make the soil toxic with arsenic. The land has not been sprayed for over 17 years but some heavy metals stay in the soil long. I will be doing a soil test coming spring. I have looked at solutions on the internet: sunflowers, brake ferns etc. If there is arsenic should I walk away or rehabilitate the soil and how long will it take?



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    If it turns out you have to much Arsenic, Oyster Mushrooms may be a good thing to look into. Trying to figure how an apple is affected by Arsenic might be a good route as well. Whether it ends up in the fruit or not, whether it effects the reproduction or fruiting of the trees, etc.
    My opinion is it’s good to suck that stuff out of the soil and chemically restructure it if possible into something that can feed the soil. Some say that trace levels of arsenic are okay and occur naturally, but when the land has been sprayed like that it may well have to much. This is all theory, so take that with a grain of salt and research what I have said here if you take this advice. Hope that helps.
    Where are the instructors at that answer these type of questions?


    Larry Korn

    Hi Riga,

    I don’t often recommend soil tests, but in the case of heavy metals like arsenic it is a good idea. I’d relax until you got the results back. Be sure to take samples from various places throughout the orchard. The most common source of heavy metal contamination that is relevant for most permaculturists is lead that came from house paint. In that case, the danger is greater from fumes when the soil is disturbed than from the residue in the soil itself. Neither are good, of course, but you need to consider that aspect as well. The chance of the contaminant finding its way to fruit growing on a tree, of course, is much less than a leafy green or root crop grown in the vegetable garden. Check out sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, mustard family plants, buckwheat, and various mushrooms as possible cleansers (but heavy metals are the toughest challenge of all to clean from the soil). Yes, heavy metals naturally exist in soils, but they are usually at benign levels.



    My understanding is that arsenic is chemically similar to phosphorus. Plants only take up arsenic if there is a deficiency of phosphorus. So if your soil has plenty of P then no problem. If not, rock phosphate would be good to spread. Wood ashes & manure have some phosphorus also as well as plant material (hay ,straw, leaves etc) from clean sources.



    Hi, it might be good to look at the ability that some earthworm species have in “cleaning” soil of heavy metals.



    Check out this article – there’s some info about a arsenic hyper accumulating plant


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