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Collaboration Results in Successful Bioreactor Installation to Study Water Quality Conservation

September 9, 2019

(This article was written for and published by Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (ADMC) on August 30th, 2019.)

 

The Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm in Iowa is a great example of conservation-minded farmers proactively investing in water quality innovation in collaboration with land grant universities and industry professionals. The NW Research and Demonstration Farm near Sutherland, Iowa are owned by a non-profit association of local farmers and home to a wide variety of water management research projects led by staff and students from Iowa State University.

In February of 2019, Terry Tuttle, Farm Superintendent, approached Matt Helmers, Director of the ISU Nutrient Research Center, about studying water quality conservation with the installation of a bioreactor. The use of bioreactors is slowly gaining traction because of their potential to reduce nitrate in drainage outputs by up to 50%.

Matt was on board with the idea and designed a 30-acre drainage system, following NRCS standards, that would filter through a wood chip bioreactor. He estimated the sizes and volume of pipe needed, then worked with Ken Skinner, Agricultural Salesman from Prinsco, to get everything ordered. Brian Heinsohn from Heinsohn Digging and Tiling helped to refine the system design, get the product on-site and provide all of the installation services.

This new bioreactor is 20’ wide x 100’ long x 4’ deep and filled with carbon-rich wood chips that serve as a substrate for bacteria that breaks down nitrate. Monitoring devices will be installed soon to begin collecting flow rate data and water samples for nitrate testing. Part of the project is to determine the maximum life of the bioreactor, which is currently expected to be between 10-20 years.

A recent Open House for the project was a success and it’s expected that hundreds of industry experts, students and members of the public will visit and learn from this project over the next several years. Jamie Duininck, Co-owner of Prinsco adds,” We are proud to be involved in these types of initiatives and have had a strong history of investing in research and innovation around water quality conservation practices.”

Thanks to everyone involved for keeping water quality innovation moving forward.

A 30-acre drainage system using Prinsco pipe was designed and installed to feed the bioreactor.  Photo Credit: ISU Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm.

A 30-acre drainage system using Prinsco pipe was designed and installed to feed the bioreactor. Photo Credit: ISU Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm.

The wood chip bioreactor is 20’ wide x 100’ long x 4’ deep. Photo Credit: ISU Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm.

The wood chip bioreactor is 20’ wide x 100’ long x 4’ deep. Photo Credit: ISU Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm.

Carbon-rich wood chips will break down nitrates in the water before it reaches the system outlet. Photo credit: Matthew Helmers, ISU Director of the Nutrient Research Center

Carbon-rich wood chips will break down nitrates in the water before it reaches the system outlet. Photo credit: Matthew Helmers, ISU Director of the Nutrient Research Center

 

 

 

 

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