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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Comparing Carbon Substrates for Denitrification of Subsurface Drainage Water


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 35 No. 3, p. 824-829
    Received: June 21, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): moorman@nstl.gov
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  1. Colin M. Greenana,
  2. Thomas B. Moorman *b,
  3. Thomas C. Kasparb,
  4. Timothy B. Parkinb and
  5. Dan B. Jaynesb
  1. a Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011
    b USDA-ARS, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, 2150 Pammel Drive, Ames, IA 50011


Nitrate in water from tile drained corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] fields in the U.S. Midwest contributes to nitrate contamination of surface waters. Denitrification-based biofilters are a promising strategy for reducing nitrate concentrations, but these systems require an external carbon supply to sustain denitrification. The ability of four organic materials to serve as carbon substrates for denitrification biofilters was evaluated in this laboratory study. Wood chips, wood chips amended with soybean oil, cornstalks, and cardboard fibers were mixed with subsoil (oxidized till) and incubated anaerobically for 180 d. Periodically, 15NO3–N was added to maintain nitrate N concentrations between 10 and 100 mg L−1 All of the materials stimulated NO3–N removal and the degree of removal from highest to lowest was: cornstalks, cardboard fibers, wood chips with oil, and wood chips alone. Analysis of 15N showed that immobilization and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium accounted for <4% of NO3–N removal in all treatments, therefore denitrification was the dominant NO3–N removal process. Cardboard fibers, wood chips and oil, and wood chips alone did not support as much denitrification as cornstalks, but their rates of NO3–N removal were steady and would probably continue longer than cornstalks. The addition of soybean oil to wood chips significantly increased denitrification over wood chips alone.

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Copyright © 2006. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyASA, CSSA, SSSA