But those explosives and munitions leave behind toxic compounds that have contaminated millions of acres of U.S. military bases — with an estimated cleanup bill ranging between $16 billion and $165 billion.
In a paper published online Nov. 16 in Plant Biotechnology Journal, University of Washington and University of York researchers describe new transgenic grass species that can neutralize and eradicate RDX — a toxic compound that has been widely used in explosives since World War II.
UW engineers introduced two genes from bacteria that learned to eat RDX and break it down into harmless components in two perennial grass species: switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera). The best-performing strains removed all the RDX from a simulated soil in which they were grown within less than two weeks, and they retained none of the toxic chemical in their leaves or stems.
It is the first reported demonstration of genetically transforming grasses …