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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Drilling Fluid Effects on Crop Growth and Iron and Zinc Availability


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 28 No. 3, p. 744-749

    * Corresponding author(s): tbaud@lamar.colostate.edu
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  1. T. A. Bauder *,
  2. K. A. Barbarick,
  3. J. F. Shanahan,
  4. P. D. Ayers and
  5. P. L. Chapman
  1. Dep. of Soil and Crop Science, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523;
    Dep. of Chemical and Bioresource Engineering, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523;
    Dep. of Statistics, Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, CO 80523;
    USDA-ARS, Lincoln, NE 68583.



Waste drilling fluids are often land-farmed following completion of an oil or gas well in Colorado. This material usually contains production water, bentonitic clays, formation cuttings, barite, Na compounds, and synthetic organic polymers. We investigated the effects of 5 to 60 dry g drilling fluid kg−1 soil on the growth and trace metal concentration of sorghum—sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench ‘DeKalb ST-6’—S. sudanense) in the greenhouse. A nonlinear regression exponential-rise model fit the increased plant total dry matter yield response to increasing drilling fluid rates. Increased plant tissue Fe concentration and uptake (P < 0.05) indicated that increased plant-available Fe was primarily responsible for the yield response, but increased Zn availability was also suspected. Results from a second greenhouse study confirmed that drilling fluid can also correct Zn deficiency in corn (Zea mays L.). Soil SAR (sodium adsorption ratio) was higher with increasing drilling fluid, but was still <1. Other trace-element concentrations in sudangrass tissue and soil pH and ECsat were not significantly increased due to application of drilling fluid. This study showed that application of controlled rates of water-based drilling fluid from operations in Weld County, Colorado, was beneficial to the growth of sorghum—sudangrass and provided evidence that land application is an acceptable method of disposal.

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