U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


Main content area

Assessment of silt from sand and gravel processing as a suitable sub-soil material in land restoration: A glasshouse study

Mašková, Lucie, Simmons, Robert W., De Baets, Sarah, Montero, Enrique Moran, Delmer, Aude, Sakrabani, Ruben
Chemosphere 2019 v.219 pp. 58-65
Festuca rubra, Lolium perenne, Phleum pratense, Poa pratensis, Secale cereale, Sinapis alba subsp. alba, byproducts, cover crops, grasslands, gravel, greenhouse experimentation, land restoration, mass density, mixing, nitrogen, phosphorus, plant establishment, potassium, quarries, rye, sand, seed mixtures, silt, subsoil, topsoil, winter, United Kingdom
Annually, sand and gravel processing generates approximately 20 million tonnes of non-commercial by-product as fine silt particles (<63 μm) which constitutes approximately 20% of quarry production in the UK. This study is significant as it investigated the use of quarry silt as a sub-soil medium to partially substitute soil-forming materials whilst facilitating successful post-restoration crop establishment. In a glasshouse pot experiment, top-soil and sub-soil layering was simulated, generating an artificial sub-soil medium by mixing two quarry non-commercial by-products, i.e. silt and overburden. These were blended in three ratios (100:0, 70:30, 50:50). Pots were packed to two bulk densities (1.3 and 1.5 g cm-3) and sown with three cover crops used in the early restoration process namely winter rye (Secale cereale), white mustard (Sinapis alba) and a grassland seed mixture (Lolium perenne, Phleum pratense, Poa pratensis, Festuca rubra). Three weeks into growth, the first signs of nitrogen (N) deficiency were observed in mustard plants, with phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) deficiencies observed at 35 days. Rye exhibited minor N deficiency symptoms four weeks into growth, whilst the grassland mixture showed no deficiency symptoms. The 70:30 silt:overburden sub-soil blend resulted in significantly higher Root Mass Densities of grassland seed mixture and rye in the sub-soil layer as compared with the other blends. The innovation in this work is the detailed physical, chemical and biological characterisation of silt:overburden blends and effects on root development of plants commonly used in early restoration to bio-engineer soil structural improvements.