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Scientists Discover Nickel-Eating Plant Species 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-for-dessert? dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A new species of metal-eating plant has been discovered in the Philippines, and the plant loves to eat nickel. From the article: 'Scientists from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños have discovered Rinorea niccolifera, a plant species that accumulates up to 18,000 ppm of the metal in its leaves without poisoning itself, according to Edwino Fernando, lead author of the report and professor, said in a statement. Fernando and his team say that the hyper-accumulation of nickel is a very rare phenomenon, with only about 0.5 percent to 1 percent of plant species native to environments with nickel-rich soil.'"
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Scientists Discover Nickel-Eating Plant Species

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  • by retroworks (652802) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @02:48PM (#46973979) Homepage Journal
    And my 50 dollar bills.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, but you get them back later as "dime bags".

    • Girls are almost ready to go outside. Nice Trainwreck.

      Down to about a pound from last years crop. Woe is me.

      Guess I could always make some honey from scrap.

  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Sunday May 11, 2014 @02:57PM (#46974031)
    I am assuming that the concentration of nickel in the plant is high enough to make it unpleasant to herbivores, possibly even toxic. Of course, it could merely be an adaptation to take advantage of environments which other plants have difficulty with.

    In either event, I wonder if the concentration of nickel in these plants is sufficiently high to make farming them a productive mining activity?

    • by DigiShaman (671371) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @03:08PM (#46974087) Homepage

      It's called phytomining. Primary used in the extraction of gold when available.

    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @03:08PM (#46974093) Homepage

      According to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] most current nickel deposits run around 1% ore purity. The plant comes out to about 1.8% nickel which is high enough grade but - you need thousand of tons of ore to make it commercially feasible. Thousands of tons of plant matter is one hell of a lot of bushes.

      • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @03:24PM (#46974185)

        I'd imagine you'd probably only get a couple of harvests before the soil loses all of its ore too. Genetically engineered seaweed to extract metals from seawater, now that might be a longer term prospect.

        • by cusco (717999)

          Problem with seaweeds is that a lot of them are actually cooperative algae (like kelp). A heavy rain causes a pond to overflow or a seagull leave a pond with some stuck to its feathers and now it's in the wild. I hope that the petroleum-excreting algae continue to be utter failures for that reason.

        • It is an advantage that the soil loses it's nickel. For most life that stuff is toxic.
          Just deep plow the soil each couple of years after harvest to get the top 1m about equally. After a couple of decades the nickel will have left the upper 1m of soil. Remove 80 cm of it and continue. After 3 cycles you can return the upper layers so you can let forests grow there. No deep rooted trees, because those go deeper than 2.4m, but some species should fare quite well.

      • Of course, processing the plant should be easier. You just burn it.

  • by Nutria (679911) on Sunday May 11, 2014 @03:16PM (#46974133)

    I know the Philippines are poor, but this is ridiculous!

    • by Trepidity (597)

      Yeah that sounds pretty low-class. In rich countries we put our universities in sensible places, like the spa [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 11, 2014 @03:37PM (#46974237)

    Weren't we talking about nickel? I'm confused...

  • "Scientists Discover Nickel-Eating Planet-Spiders"

  • There are hundred of natural [a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperaccumulator"]Hyper-Accumulators[/a]

    However active use of these is blocked by patent e.g. http://www.google.co.uk/patent... [google.co.uk]

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