Germination and seedling development of switchgrass and smooth bromegrass exposed to 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene

M. M. Peterson, G. L. Horst, P. J. Shea, S. D. Comfort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


It is estimated that explosives contaminate approximately 0.82 million cubic metres of soil at former military installations throughout the US; major contaminants often include 2,4,6-trinitrotoluene (TNT) and its degradation products. At some sites, phytoremediation may be a viable option to incineration or other costly remediation treatments. Grasses may be particularly suited for remediation because of their growth habit and adaptability to a wide range of soil and climate conditions. We characterized the effects of TNT on germination and early seedling development of switchgrass and smooth bromegrass to evaluate their potential use on contaminated sites. Switchgrass and smooth bromegrass seeds were germinated in nutrient-free agar containing 0 to 60 mg TNT litre-1. Smooth bromegrass germination decreased as TNT concentration increased, while switchgrass germination was unaffected by TNT. Concentrations up to 15 mg TNT litre-1 did not affect switchgrass root growth rate, but bromegrass root growth was reduced at TNT concentrations above 7.5 mg litre-1. At 7.5 mg TNT litre-1, however, shoot growth rate was reduced in both species. Examination at 20-fold magnification revealed switchgrass radicles were unaffected by TNT, while smooth bromegrass radicles appeared slightly swollen. Results indicate switchgrass is more tolerant of TNT than smooth bromegrass, but the establishment of both species may be limited to soil containing less than 50 mg kg-1 of extractable TNT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-59
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Germination
  • Remediation
  • Smooth bromegrass
  • Switchgrass
  • TNT
  • Tolerance
  • Xenobiotic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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