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New Brunswick Urban Gardening

Basil growing in New Brunswick backyard garden. (Courtesy of Carol Baillie.)

CUES conducted experiments to determine whether produce grown in backyard soil contaminated with lead (Pb) is also contaminated. The NJ residential soil standard for Pb is 400 parts per million (ppm), but lead concentrations in the New Brunswick backyard gardens we sampled were three times this regulatory standard. Rutgers scientists and Unity Square Partnership collected New Brunswick soil from community gardening volunteers. The contaminated soil was used to grow traditional vegetables and leafy plants indigenous to the local Hispanic community. The plants were harvested and tested to determine if these species take Pb up out of the soil. After the risk has been determined, best gardening practices will be developed and communicated to the local gardeners via Workshops lead by the Middlesex County Natural Resources County Agent, Michele Bakacs.

Funding for this research was provided by Rutgers University through a Community-University Research Partnership Grant. The collaborative team includes Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE), the Environmental & Occupational Sciences Institute (EOHSI), Rutgers Soil Testing Lab, Unity Square Partnership, New Brunswick Community Farmer's Market (NBCFM) and the backyard gardener volunteers.