Plant-testing Program Supporting Urban Agriculture

The UCSD Superfund Research Center's Plant-testing Program is led by the Community Engagement Core and Research Translation Core, and supports of the EPA’s Brownfields Redevelopment Program and Urban Agriculture. Brownfields are sites where concerns about the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant have deterred beneficial uses or reuses of such properties.

U.C. President visits Oceanview Growing Grounds Urban Garden, March 12, 2015.

The use of Brownfields for urban agriculture can protect the environment, reduce blight, help lower income families gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and foster community development. Many communities are turning to urban gardens (community gardens as well as backyard gardens) as a low cost way to increase access to nutritious fruit and vegetables.

UCSD is working with the EPA and City of San Diego on a program in Southeastern San Diego to encourage clean up and reinvestment in Brownfields—some of which are being developed for use as community gardens. 

Dr. Julian Schroeder’s lab , including Biology doctoral student Andrew Cooper, is testing edible and non-edible plant tissue in Brownfield sites (and nearby backyard gardens) for potential contamination by heavy metals. Results will be used to help educate the community on how to reduce their exposure risk. Urban soils normally contain low background levels of heavy metals. Heavy metal concentrations in soils can increase over time due to various residental, industrial, and agriculture activities. Some plants absorb heavy metals from soils that can end up in the leaves and fruits. 

Edible plant tissues will be sampled from one urban garden and selected community gardens and analyzed over time to measure changes in heavy metal concentrations.  

Andrew Cooper, PhD student, from Dr. Julian Schroeder's lab in Biology, collecting plant tissue samples from the Ocean View Growing Grounds (OVGG) Food Forest in Southeast San Diego, July 19, 2014

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UCSD Superfund Research Center
University of California, San Diego
Pharmacology Department
9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0722
La Jolla, CA 92093-0722