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VETIVER SYSTEM FOR WATER QUALITY

IMPROVEMENT IN ACID SULFATE SOILS


Paul Truong1, Geoff Carlin2, Freeman Cook2 and Evan Thomas3
1
TVN and DNR&M; 2 CSIRO Brisbane, and 3 Gold Coast City Council, Qld, Australia
Acid sulfate soils (ASS) are widely distributed along tropical and subtropical coasts around the world. These soils
are characterised by very high acidity and high Al concentration. Revegetation for rehabilitation and erosion
control is often very slow and difficult as most plants do not tolerate the high acidity and aluminium present. Eroded
ASS is highly acidic causing serious environmental hazard affecting aquatic flora and fauna.
Vetiver grass has been proven to thrive in the extreme physical and chemical conditions and has been used
successfully for rehabilitation and erosion control on ASS sites. This would result in the improvement of water
quality.

Fish kill

 Vetiver established and grew satisfactorily at pH = 3.8, Al / CEC % = 68


 Addition of basal fertiliser to control treatment increases yield by 63%
Stream bank erosion  Vetiver died at pH = 2.3, Al / CEC % = 90
 Addition of lime did not improve yield significantly
With soil pH as low as 2.0, the acidic solution would dissolve most metals in
the soil, including Al, Mn, Fe, Zn, Cu as well as all heavy metals, all of these  Critical level of Al / CEC for Vetiver is 87%
would eventually drained into streams and river affecting all aquatic flora and
fauna. In extreme cases the acidic water also corroded bridges and other
(compared with rice at 45%, maize & wheat = 30%)
infrastructures..

Acidity and Aluminium levels of an acid sulfate soil in Northern Australia

Location Depth Initial Oxidised Total Actual Total Potential Al Al / CEC


(cm) pH pH Acidity Acidity (meq/100g) (%)
(mole H+/T) (mole H+/T)

Drain 0-5 4.0 3.5 36 272 2.4 21


5 - 15 4.0 3.6 33 256

Flat 0 - 10 4.0 3.5 33 312 2.9 20

+ Fertiliser 0 - 10 3.7 3.0 51 410 3.0 21


10 - 20 3.5 2.8 93 535 8.7 62

- Fertiliser 0 - 10 3.7 3.4 58 400 4.5 49


10 - 20 3.7 3.3 85 426 7.8 71

Vetiver planting to stabilise this ASS drain Drainage channel in ASS is easily eroded Vetiver established easily and grew
because the lack of vegetation vigorously on the channel bank on this
ASS site

Objectives:
• Preventing further erosion by stabilising the riparian zones adjacent to drains and streams
• Raising pH in drain discharge from 3 to at least 4 or 5
• Reducing the sediment concentration by at least 20%

Methods:
• Datum pegs and sediment plates will be used to monitor soil erosion and sediment retention The channel bank was comprehensively
stabilised one year later
• Water quality will be continually monitored for pH, Electrical Conductivity, Dissolved Oxygen, Vetiver planting prevented the collapse Trapping eroded ASS in runoff water
Turbidity, Chlorides, Sulfate, Aluminum and Iron by sondes, sensors and pumping samplers of the channel bank