Fly ash generated from coal-fired power plants is a source of potential pollutants, but can be used as a soil ameliorant to increase plant biomass and yield in agriculture. However, the effects of fly ash soil application on plant biomass and the accumulation of both nutrient and toxic elements in plants remain unclear. Based on 85 articles, we conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis to evaluate changes in plant biomass and concentrations of 21 elements in plants in response to fly ash application. These elements included macro-nutrients (N, P, K, Ca, and S), micro-nutrients (B, Co, Cu, Fe, Mn, Mo, Ni, and Zn), and metal(loid)s (Al, As, Cd, Cr, Pb, and Se). Overall, fly ash application decreased plant biomass by 15.2%. However, plant biomass was enhanced by fly ash application by 11.6–29.2% at lower application rates (i.e. <25% of soil mass), and decreased by 45.8% at higher application rates (i.e. 50–100%). Below ground biomass was significantly reduced while yield was enhanced by fly ash application. Most of the element concentrations in plants were enhanced by fly ash application, and followed a descending order with metal(loid)s > micro-nutrients > macro-nutrients. Concentrations of elements tended to increase with an increase in fly ash application rate. Our syntheses indicated that fly ash should be applied at less than 25% in order to enhance plant biomass and yield but avoid high accumulations of metal(loid)s.
Chih-Li Yu, Qi Deng, Siyang Jian, Jianwei Li, E. Kudjo Dzantor, Dafeng Hui, "Effects of fly ash application on plant biomass and element accumulations: a meta-analysis", Environmental Pollution, Volume 250, 2019, Pages 137-142, ISSN 0269-7491, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2019.04.013.