University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Extraction of natural gas generates drilling fluid and drilling mud that contain high concentrations of salts. Land application of the fluid and mud can have negative impacts on plant growth and soil properties. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of drilling mud on plant growth, plant chemical concentrations, and soil chemical properties. Sudangrass (Sorghum sudanense [Piper] Stapf [Piper]) and bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon L.) were grown in a Roxana loam soil amended with 0%, 5%, or 10% (w/w) drilling mud in a 6-wk greenhouse study. Plant biomass production and concentrations of elements in biomass were determined. Electrical conductivity, pH, and concentrations of extractable and total elements in soil were analyzed. The addition of drilling mud significantly reduced shoot and total biomass production of both plant species and root biomass of bermudagrass. When drilling mud was added to the soil, plant Ca and Mg levels increased. Soil levels of Na, Cl, and the electrical conductivity significantly increased with increased levels of drilling mud application which indicated that salinity was most likely limiting plant growth. Excessive rates of drilling mud application can adversely impact soil properties and reduce plant growth.