Sedimentation of the Illinois River in central Illinois has greatly diminished the utility and ecological value of the Peoria Lakes reach of the river. Consequently, a large dredging project has been proposed to improve its wildlife habitat and recreation potential, but disposal of the dredged sediment presents a challenge. Land placement is an attractive option. Previous work in Illinois has demonstrated that sediments are potentially capable of supporting agronomic crops due to their high natural fertility and water holding capacity. However, Illinois River sediments have elevated levels of heavy metals, which may be important if they are used as garden or agricultural soil. A greenhouse experiment was conducted to determine if these sediments could serve as a plant growth medium. A secondary objective was to determine if plants grown on sediments accumulated significant heavy metal concentrations. Our results indicated that lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), radish (Raphanus sativus L.), tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum L.), and snap bean (Phaseolus vulagaris L. var. humillis) grown in sediment and a reference topsoil did not show significant or consistent differences in germination or yields. In addition, there was not a consistent statistically significant difference in metal content among tomatoes grown in sediments, topsoil, or grown locally in gardens. In the other plants grown on sediments, while Cd and Cu in all cases and As in lettuce and snap bean were elevated, levels were below those considered excessive. Results indicate that properly managed, these relatively uncontaminated calcareous sediments can make productive soils and that metal uptake of plants grown in these sediments is generally not a concern.
Additional publication details
Dredged Illinois River Sediments: Plant Growth and Metal Uptake