Phytoremediation of Soils: Meet Some of the Most Suitable Plants for this Practice

Introduction to Soil Phytoremediation

Soil phytoremediation is a practice that uses plants to remediate and benefit contaminated soils. This technique has gained prominence due to its efficiency and its sustainable character, offering a less invasive and more economical alternative for the recovery of degraded areas.

In this article, we will explore some of the most suitable plants for soil phytoremediation, highlighting their benefits and decontamination capabilities.

Soil Phytoremediation: What is it?

Soil phytoremediation is a process that uses plants to remove, degrade, or immobilize contaminants present in soil. This sustainable approach has been widely studied and applied as an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative for reclamation of contaminated areas.

Description of the Soil Phytoremediation Process
Soil Phytoremediation Process

Several scientific researches and studies have evidenced the benefits of phytoremediation. For example, a study conducted by Chen et al. (2019) demonstrated that the use of sunflower (Helianthus annuus) plants was effective in removing heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, from contaminated soils, another study conducted by Li et al. (2020) investigated the use of plants of the Brassica napus species to remediate soils contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons, and the results showed a significant reduction in pollutants after phytoremediation.

It is important to emphasize that the appropriate choice of plant species and knowledge of the soil conditions are fundamental to the success of this process. Phytoremediation has proven to be a viable option both on a small scale for the remediation of contaminated urban areas and on a large scale for the remediation of industrial sites. With its natural contaminant removal properties, phytoremediation emerges as a promising solution to rehabilitate degraded areas and preserve the environment.

The advantages of phytoremediation for the environment

Phytoremediation is an innovative technique that uses plants to remediate and decontaminate polluted soils and waters. It offers several advantages for the environment, contributing to the preservation and recovery of ecosystems affected by pollution. In this article, we will explore the main advantages of phytoremediation and how it can be applied effectively.

1. Pollution Reduction

Phytoremediation is an effective strategy for reducing soil and water pollution. By cultivating specific plants, it is possible to remove contaminants present in the environment, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and hydrocarbons. Plants absorb these toxic substances, converting them into harmless compounds or storing them in their roots, stems, and leaves. In this way, phytoremediation acts directly in the depollution of soil and the improvement of water quality.

2. Low Cost and Sustainability

One of the great advantages of phytoremediation is its low cost when compared to other environmental remediation techniques. It does not require the use of complex machinery or expensive chemicals. Furthermore, the plants used in phytoremediation are easily cultivated and can be adapted to site-specific conditions. This makes the technique sustainable and economically viable to be applied on a large scale.

3. Preservation of Biodiversity

Phytoremediation contributes to the preservation of biodiversity, because it uses native plants to remediate contaminated areas. By employing local species, the technique promotes ecological balance, avoiding the introduction of invasive plants that could further harm the environment. Furthermore, phytoremediation allows the recovery of degraded areas, increasing the diversity of plant species and favoring the return of animals and insects that depend on these ecosystems.

4. Improving Soil Quality

The presence of contaminants in soil can negatively affect its quality, compromising plant health and agricultural production. Phytoremediation acts in the removal of these pollutants, promoting decontamination and improving soil quality. With this, it is possible to restore degraded areas and make them suitable for cultivation again, benefiting agriculture and food security.

5. Non-invasive Solution

Another advantage of phytoremediation is that it is a non-invasive solution. Unlike other techniques that require removal and disposal of contaminated soil, phytoremediation allows decontamination to occur on site. This avoids the movement of large amounts of soil, reducing the environmental impact and costs associated with the transportation and disposal of contaminated waste.

Bud of a plant

In summary, phytoremediation has numerous advantages for the environment. It is an efficient, low-cost, sustainable, and non-invasive technique. In addition, it contributes to the preservation of biodiversity and the improvement of soil and water quality. By using plants as allies in decontamination, phytoremediation shows itself to be a promising alternative in the fight against pollution and in the search for a more sustainable future.

What are the most used plants in the phytoremediation process

There are several plants that have phytoremediation capabilities, each with its own particularities and aptitude for the remediation of different contaminants. Next, learn about some of the most suitable plants for the practice of phytoremediation of soils:

1. Salix viminalis (Poplar)

Salix viminalis, popularly known as poplar, is a fast-growing plant that has a great capacity to absorb heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and nickel. Its roots have the ability to extract these contaminants from the soil, contributing to the decontamination of areas impacted by industrial activities.

2. Brassica juncea (Indian mustard)

Brassica juncea, known as Indian mustard, is a plant that stands out for its ability to accumulate heavy metals in its aerial parts. This plant is especially efficient in the remediation of soils contaminated with zinc, copper and chromium. In addition, Indian mustard has the advantage of being easily cultivated, which makes it a viable option for phytoremediation projects.

3. Helianthus annuus (Sunflower)

Helianthus annuus, popularly known as sunflower, is a plant widely used in the phytoremediation of soils contaminated with oil and its derivatives. This plant has the ability to metabolize and degrade organic compounds present in the soil, contributing to the recovery of areas impacted by oil spills.

4. Vetiveria zizanioides (Vetiver)

Vetiveria zizanioides, known as vetiver, is a plant that stands out for its ability to control soil erosion and to absorb contaminants such as heavy metals and excess nutrients. Its roots have a fibrous structure that helps retain the soil, preventing erosive processes. In addition, vetiver is efficient in remediating nitrate and phosphate contaminated soils.

5**. Zea mays (Corn)**

Zea mays, known as corn, is an agricultural crop that has the ability to absorb and accumulate heavy metals in its roots. This plant has been used in the phytoremediation of soils contaminated with lead, arsenic, and cadmium. In addition, corn plays an important role in the recovery of degraded soils by promoting carbon fixation and improving soil structure.

Finally, this complete study from the Federal University of Uberlândia brings a complete overview of the process and also of the Brazilian plants with phytoremediation potential.

Phytoremediation of heavy metals: Applications and limitations.

Phytoremediation of heavy metals is a promising technique to remediate soils contaminated with these toxic elements. This approach involves the use of plants that can accumulate, extract, or transform heavy metals and help remove them from the soil. The presence of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic in contaminated soils represents a serious risk to human health and the environment.

The application of phytoremediation of heavy metals has proven to be efficient in different contexts. For example, plants such as Brassica juncea (Indian mustard) and Salix spp. (willows) have been widely used due to their ability to accumulate heavy metals in their roots and aerial parts, thus reducing the concentration of these elements in the soil. In addition, some plant species have the ability to act on phytostabilization, that is, to immobilize heavy metals in the soil, decreasing their bioavailability.

Despite the benefits of phytoremediation of heavy metals, there are some limitations to be considered. The effectiveness of the process depends on the appropriate choice of plant species, because not all plants are able to tolerate high concentrations of heavy metals or accumulate them in significant amounts. In addition, the speed of remediation can be slow compared to other conventional techniques, requiring long-term planning.

Soil and Cannabis Phytoremediation

Regarding cannabis (Cannabis spp.), recent research has explored its potential for phytoremediation of heavy metals. Studies show that cannabis has a unique ability to absorb and accumulate heavy metals in its tissues, making it a possible alternative for remediating contaminated soil. However, it is important to note that the use of cannabis for phytoremediation is still in the early stages of research and regulation, and issues such as safety and proper disposal of the plants need to be considered.

In summary, phytoremediation of heavy metals is a promising technique for the remediation of contaminated soils. With proper choice of plant species and careful planning, plants can be used to remove or immobilize heavy metals, reducing the risks associated with soil contamination. Cannabis has emerged as a potentially interesting alternative, but further research and regulatory considerations are needed before its large-scale implementation for phytoremediation.

Cannabis Plant
Focus on a plant from a cannabis plantation

Case Study on Phytoremediation: Using Hemp to contain erosion in China!

A well-known case of soil restoration using cannabis occurred in China, where hemp plantations were used to stem soil erosion. Hemp, a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, has been cultivated extensively in the mountainous regions of the country, especially in areas prone to erosion due to climatic conditions and rugged topography.

This practice of planting hemp has been adopted for centuries in China, mainly due to the unique properties of the plant. Hemp has an extensive, fibrous root system that can penetrate deep into the soil and create a network of roots that stabilizes and strengthens the soil. Hemp roots help prevent soil erosion, reducing nutrient loss and land degradation.

Soil Improvement and Beneficiation

In addition to its ability to control erosion, hemp cultivation also contributes to improving soil quality. The roots of the plant have the ability to extract heavy metals from the soil, aiding in the decontamination and removal of these unwanted elements. This makes hemp an interesting option for phytoremediation of heavy metal contaminated soils, as mentioned earlier.

The case of hemp plantations in China is a practical example of the application of cannabis in land reclamation. This practice not only helps to contain erosion, but also promotes soil health and stability. It is important to note that this particular case refers to the cultivation of hemp for agricultural and environmental purposes, and not for recreational or medicinal use of the plant.

This example demonstrates how the cultivation of cannabis, such as hemp, can be a viable and sustainable alternative for the restoration of degraded soils and the prevention of erosion. However, it is essential to consider the particularities and specific conditions of each region before applying this practice on a large scale.

Hemp as a sustainable alternative to agricultural relay

In addition to its properties in restoring degraded soils, cannabis, more specifically hemp, can play an important role in relaying agricultural crops to help maintain soil nutrients. Crop rotation is an agricultural practice in which different crops are planted in rotation on the same land over time.

Hemp’s deep roots allow nutrients to be extracted from deeper layers of soil, bringing them to the surface through the decomposition of its leaves and stems. This decomposition releases essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, enriching the soil and making it more fertile for subsequent crops.

In addition, hemp is fast and dense growing, which helps suppress weed growth and reduce soil erosion. Their fallen leaves also act as a protective covering, preventing direct exposure of the soil to wind and rain, helping to retain moisture, and protecting the soil microbiota.

Growing hemp helps maintain and improve soil fertility, reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and contributes to the sustainability of the agricultural system as a whole. However, it is important to note that crop rotation must be planned appropriately, taking into account the specific needs of the different crops, soil conditions, and local farming practices.

Meet Kanna, an environmental impact token that generates carbon credits and wants to benefit degraded soils.

Kanna's banner on soil phytoremediation article
Environmental and Social Impact Tokem

In today’s world, the concern with the environment and the search for sustainable solutions have become more and more present. It is in this context that Kanna, an innovative startup that is revolutionizing the sector of carbon credit certification through regenerative agriculture, has emerged.

Kanna stands out for offering a pioneering protocol that certifies and validates carbon credits from regenerative agricultural practices. By encouraging and recognizing farmers committed to adopting sustainable techniques, Kanna is driving the transition to more environmentally friendly agriculture and contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Using Kanna’s protocol, farmers who adopt regenerative methods such as organic farming, agroforestry, and integrated production systems can obtain certified carbon credits. These credits represent the amount of carbon dioxide that is removed from the atmosphere through these sustainable farming practices. By trading these credits, Kanna provides farmers not only with a new source of income, but also with recognition and encouragement for their positive actions towards the environment.

With Kanna, carbon credit certification becomes a powerful tool to drive the transition to regenerative and sustainable agriculture. Through this innovative model, the startup is creating significant environmental impact by promoting agricultural practices that not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also contribute to soil health, biodiversity, and the resilience of agricultural systems. Kanna is at the forefront of sustainability, uniting the agricultural sector and the fight against climate change in a unique and promising initiative using Blockchain to bring transparency in the process.

To learn more about the project, go to:

Frequently Asked Questions about phytoremediation of soils

1. What are the main benefits of phytoremediation of soils?

Soil phytoremediation offers several benefits, such as decontamination of impacted areas, restoration of degraded ecosystems, reduction of environmental impacts caused by more invasive remediation techniques, and low cost compared to other approaches.

2. How do plants perform phytoremediation of soils?

Plants used in phytoremediation of soils have the ability to extract and accumulate toxic substances from the soil through their roots. They can absorb heavy metals and organic compounds, storing them in their aerial parts or transforming them into less toxic forms.

3. What are the most suitable plants for phytoremediation of soils contaminated with heavy metals?

Some of the most suitable plants for phytoremediation of heavy metal contaminated soils are poplar, Indian mustard, sunflower, vetiver, and water poplar. These plants have a high capacity to absorb and accumulate these contaminants.

4. How to choose the right plant for phytoremediation of a given soil?

The choice of the appropriate plant for phytoremediation of a soil depends on the characteristics of the contaminant present, the environmental conditions, and the soil properties. It is important to perform a detailed soil analysis and seek expert advice to select the most appropriate plant for the specific case.

5. Can phytoremediation of soils be applied on a large scale?

Yes, phytoremediation of soils can be applied on a large scale. This technique has been used in environmental recovery projects, both in urban areas and industrial sites. It is an efficient and sustainable approach to the decontamination and rehabilitation of degraded soils.

6. What are the challenges of phytoremediation of soils?

The phytoremediation of soils faces some challenges, such as the appropriate selection of plants for each case, the need for constant monitoring, obtaining long-term results, and raising awareness about this technique among the various sectors involved.


Soil phytoremediation is an efficient and sustainable practice for the decontamination and rehabilitation of contaminated soils. The use of hyperaccumulator plants offers a less invasive and more cost-effective approach to reclamation of degraded areas. With the knowledge about the most suitable plants for this practice, it is possible to carry out phytoremediation projects with greater efficiency and success.

Therefore, when faced with the need to remediate contaminated soils, consider phytoremediation as a viable and ecologically responsible option. Choosing the right plants and implementing this technique properly can bring significant benefits to the environment and to society as a whole.

Despite having limitations, soil phytoremediation remains a viable and sustainable option for the remediation of contaminated areas. As research advances and new plant species are discovered, the potential of this technique can be further explored. Phytoremediation not only contributes to the health of the soil and the environment, but also offers the opportunity to rehabilitate degraded areas, making them productive again and safe for the community.

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