Woodchip Bioreactors for Nitrate in Agricultural Drainage

Created with SARE support
Laura Christianson and Matthew Helmers, Iowa State University | 2011 | 4 pages
PDF (4.6 MB)

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Woodchip bioreactors, installed at the edge of agricultural fields, can remove 15 to 60 percent of the nitrate in tile-drained water annually. This innovative approach for protecting the water quality in Midwest streams and rivers is described in a new fact sheet available from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Iowa State University graduate student Laura Christianson and ISU ag and biosystems engineer Matthew Helmers authored the publication. They researched bioreactors in a project funded in part by a 2009 North Central SARE graduate student grant. In 2012, they won a Blue Ribbon Award from the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) for this publication.

Bioreactors—buried trenches filled with wood chips—capture and treat water from tile drainage before it reaches streams and rivers. Because bioreactors fit well in buffer strips or grassy areas at the edges of fields, typically no land is taken out of production. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) offers a one-time payment of $3,999 for installation, which covers roughly half the cost.

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.