News: PhytoNews Issue #1/2012

Plant technologies and environmental solutions

Welcome to the inaugural issue of PhytoNews, the official newsletter of the International Phytotechnology Society. Professor Ian Balcom of Lyndon State University has graciously taken the lead on this important endeavor and the entire Society thanks him for his initiative. The Newsletter will be a  clearinghouse of information for all things Phyto—which in our minds involves any effort where plants are being used to alleviate environmental problems.


This definition of phytotechnologies includes everything from traditional phytoextraction- phytoremediation techniques to constructed wetlands, vegetative covers, plant-microbe-contaminant processes, plant-nanoparticle interactions, and carbon sequestration.  The Newsletter will contain important society updates and announcements, including upcoming meetings, job opportunities, and grant opportunities. Also included will be links to other on-line groups, such as our LinkedIn and Facebook groups. There will also be journal updates, news items related to phytotechnologies, and our “Interview with an Expert” feature.  In this issue, you will find some important information about  the 9th  International Phytotechnology Society Meeting, which will be held in September 11-14th 2012 at Hasselt University in Hasselt Belgium. The success of the field of phytotechnologies has been the direct result of the hard work of all of us in the “phyto- community” and the Newsletter will be the same. Anyone interested in participating in the “PhytoNews” should contact Ian Balcom ( Thanks and enjoy.
Jason C. White, Ph.D., President,  International Phytotechnology Society

Interview with a Phyto Expert - Dr. Rufus L. Chaney

One goal of this newsletter is to share interviews of experts in the field of phytotechnologies. For this inaugural issue of PhytoNews, I interviewed the recipient of  this years’  Gordon Award for Lifetime Achievement and Excellence in Phytoremediation Research, Rufus Chaney of the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) of Beltsville,  Maryland. Even the briefest inquiry into the variety of phenomena that comprise the field of phytotechnologies will bring you to Rufus’ work. In fact, we could probably mimic the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” network of the movie industry with Rufus and phytotechnologies.  Rufus has been with the USDA ARS as a fulltime researcher since his  post-doc in 1969;  so it is no wonder that that even a brief conversation with Rufus on the subject of phytotechnologies will take on encyclopedic dimensions. During our conversation we touched on only a fraction of the subject areas his nearly 450 publications, 270 presentations, and 42 years of research experience has encompassed. Our discussion ranged from land-applied sewage sludge, to phytomining, risk assessment of heavy metal contaminated soil, trials and tribulations of patented technology transfer,  phytostabilization smelter plumes and mine tailings, in situ remediation of DDT, rumen-plant cooperative (phyto- ruminal) degradation of explosives, and the photo-emission of mercury in aerobic soils.

Early in his career, he was tasked to examine the effects of land-applied sewage sludge. Observing that there was an unavoidable uptake of cadmium, copper, nickel, selenium, zinc, and PCB’s in to crops such as corn but not enough to achieve useful removal of soil residues, he began to delve into the world of hyperaccumulators. He focused in particular on the work of Robert Brooks with serpentine plant species of New  Zealand and New Caledonia and building on observations of others that date back as far as 1948 with (Alyssum bertolonii) he coined the term phytoextration.

His research focus then expanded to a very stubborn zinc smelter plume in Palmerton, PA, which had left the affected land denuded of vegetation, thereby creating significant environmental and human health hazards in surrounding areas. Applying  his experience in agronomic soil fertility (his Ph.D. dissertation was on the effect of nickel on iron metabolism by soybean) and heavy metals, several long- barren zinc contaminated sites were successfully revegetated by the application of soil amendments, demonstrating the power of this approach and winning US- EPA adoption of these methods for many Superfund sites. The success of this remediation project, which was developed by the company responsible for the cleanup, inspired Dr. Chaney to further the methods at the Palmerton site and apply them to other sites around the country.

Combining experience with beneficial use of biosolids and phytostabilization projects, in the 1990s the concept of phytostabilization of large-scale metal contaminated sites was successfully tested on large smelter plumes and eroded mine tailings as well as urban soils. Highlighting the uniqueness of his work and his research position at the USDA, this work was complemented by risk assessments studies.

As a logical extension of the concept of phytoextraction, Rufus began exploring the concept of phytomining, for which he (with J. S. Angle, A.J.M. Baker and Y. M. Li) was awarded a patent (Method for phytomining of nickel, cobalt and other metals from soil, 1998). As is common when government agencies seek to monetize scientist’s work, the transfer of this technology was (and remains to this day) mired in a state of limbo between not-for-profit research and a viable, profitable industry.

In recent years, Rufus has been looking at issues related  in situ  remediation of DDT/DDE using composts to reduce food web migration initiated by earthworm uptake, beneficial use of many byproducts as well as the concept of “phyto-ruminal” (plant-rumen cooperative biodegradation) remediation of cyclic nitroaromatic explosives such as RDX and TNT and the herbicide atrazine.

When asked what was next in this storied scientific career, Rufus is quick to respond that at 69, he’s probably nearing the end of his service to USDA  and our field. But given his record thus far, we can probably expect another two to three hundred papers, abstracts, books, and presentations from one of phytotechnologies’ most prolific researchers.

Jason C. White, Ph.D.; Managing Editor

Journal Update - January 2012 - International Journal of Phytoremediation

The  International Journal of Phytoremediation  is the primary publication of the International Phytotechnology Society and is free, either in electronic or hard copy format, to all society members. The first issue of the  International Journal of Phytoremediation was published in 1999 and IJP  remains the sole peer-reviewed publication dedicated exclusively to phytotechnologies--  the use of plants to alleviate environmental problems.   Figure 1 tracks  the growth of the journal as measured by submissions; up until 2005 we received 50 or fewer submissions per year but since then, the journal has grown consistently in terms of submissions and also in terms of actual papers published.

Figure 2 shows the international nature of our submissions for the current year, with papers arriving from 41 different countries. In 2005, we published 4 issues with a total of 24 papers.  In 2011, we have published 10 regular issues with 77 papers and one special issue based on the 2009 IPS Conference in St. Louis with 17 papers. Our impact factor is  1.936 (5-Year Impact Factor is 2.106) and our acceptance rate for submissions is 43%.  As of the writing of this update, Volume 14 issue 6 (July 2012) is available on-line and there are 27 papers present in our “forthcoming articles” section.   IJP  publishes research articles, technical notes, field notes, review articles (invited and unsolicited), invited commentaries, and conference reviews.  As shown below, we also publish special or dedicated issues based on research presented at our annual IPS society meetings:

  • IPS Denver 2007 Dedicated issue - Volume 11 (2009) Issue 5.  
  • IPS Nanjing China 2008 Dedicated issue - Volume 12 (2010) Issue 3.
  • IPS St. Louis 2009 Special issue - Volume 13 (2011) Supplement.
  • IPS Parma Italy 2010 Dedicated issue - Volume 14 (2012) Issue 4.
  • IPS Portland 2011 Dedicated issue - Currently accepting submissions 

In terms of who reads  IJP, the breakdown is as follows:  108 society subscriptions, 31 institutional; 1,435 on-line sales agreements; 22,069 Libraries via EBSCO; 1,800 additional libraries via philanthropic initiatives (World Bank- designated developing countries).  In terms of organization, we have two Co-Editor- in- Chief; Lee A. Newman, Ph.D. of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry handles submissions focusing on organic contaminants and Scott Angle, Ph.D. of the University of Georgia handles submissions focusing on inorganic contaminants. There are two Senior Associate Editors for Inorganics; Stephen Ebbs, Ph.D. of Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and Jing Song, Ph.D, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The Senior-Associate Editor for organic contaminants is Michael Reynolds, Ph.D. of the US Army Corp Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.  For more information about the journal, please contact the Jason C. White, Ph.D. (  who is the IJP Managing Editor, or visit the journal website.

Figure 1 - Number of submissions

Figure 2 - Number of Manuscripts by Country

Phytotechnologies in the News

The 9th International Phytotechnology Society conference will be hosted by Hasselt University in Belgium, from September 11th to 14th, 2012 (

This conference will bring together scientists, consultants, designers, engineers, builders, regulators, site owners, and site users to explore phytotechnologies to  address current and emerging environmental challenges.  Informative sessions and lively discussions will provide an ideal environment for developing new relationships and ideas. Furthermore,  pre-conference workshops will give the opportunity to see projects in action. In addition, coffee breaks and social activities will give the participants the opportunity to “taste” Belgium while post-conference tours will allow discovery of the beauty of Belgium.

The International Phytotechnology Society and the Gordon Award Committee are pleased to announce the Professor Jaco Vangronsveld of Hasselt University in Belgium is the 2012 Recipient of the Gordon Award. More information on Jaco’s significant contributions to the field of phytotechnologies will follow in upcoming issues of the newsletter.  Congratulations Jaco!

Two new online groups created
Kickstarter Campaign to fund the publication of a  phytoremediation field guide  was successful in meeting it’s goal and has been published by youarethecity.

>Phytotechnology Horticulture Degree Option

Making ‘green’ cheese: an eco-friendly answer to a waste disposal challenge

Vertical gardens make for a breath of fresh air

Newly created Wikipedia page (needs work)

PCBs change nature of town pond

Yardsmart: Recruiting ferns in the fight against pollution

Gowanus Sponge Park Set to (Finally) Arrive This Spring


North Dakota State University, Biological Sciences, has a faculty position available for an ecologist.  We want PLANT people to apply and PHYTOREMEDIATION would be of great interest.

About the Society

The International Phytotechnology Society (IPS) is a nonprofit, worldwide professional society
comprised of individuals and institutions engaged in the science and application of using plants to deal with environmental problems.

IPS’s mission is to promote research, education, training, and application of those technologies that use plants to deal with problems of environmental contamination, carbon sequestration, alternative fuels, and ecological restoration.

IPS is open to all researchers, practitioners, regulators, site owners and interested and concerned individuals who want to promote a natural way to deal with environmental problems.