A University of York study has shown that soil erosion-fighting GM Grass can be used to remove toxic chemicals left in the ground from munitions.
According to lead authors professor Neil Bruce and Dr Liz Rylott, their study is the first to demonstrate how genetically modified switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) can detoxify residues of the military explosive RDX, left behind on live-fire training ranges, munitions dumps and minefields.
RDX has been a major component of munitions since WW2 which are still used extensively on military training grounds. This use has now resulted in widespread pollution of groundwater.
As part of their research, Bruce and Rylott generated the GM plants by inserting two genes from bacteria able to break down RDX. The plants were then grown in RDX contaminated soil on a US military site.
Results show that the genetically modified grass grew well and successfully degraded RDX to non-detectable levels in their plant tissues.
What’s more, the study confirms that the plants were able remove and degrade RDX at a rate of 27 kg RDX per hectare.
This is significant as over 10 million hectares of military land in the U.S. are contaminated with munitions components, of which, RDX is a major component.
Image and content: University of York