Performance of agricultural residue media in laboratory denitrifying bioreactors at low temperatures

Gary W. Feyereisen, Thomas B. Moorman, Laura E. Christianson, Rodney T. Venterea, Jeffrey A. Coulter, Ulrike W. Tschirner

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41 Scopus citations


Denitrifying bioreactors can be effective for removing nitrate from agricultural tile drainage, however, questions about cold springtime performance persist. The objective of this study was to improve the nitrate removal rate (NRR) of denitrifying bioreactors at warm and cold temperatures using agriculturally derived media rather than wood chips (WC). Corn (Zea mays L.) cobs (CC), corn stover (CS), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) straw (BS), WC, and CC followed by a compartment of WC (CC+WC) were tested in laboratory columns for 5 mo at a 12-h hydraulic residence time in separate experiments at 15.5 and 1.5°C. Nitrate-N removal rates ranged from 35 to 1.4 at 15.5°C and from 7.4 to 1.6 g N m-3 d-1 at 1.5°C, respectively; NRRs were ranked CC > CC+WC > BS = CS > WC and CC ≥ CC+WC = CS ≥ BS > WC for 15.5 and 1.5°C, respectively. Although NRRs for CC were increased relative to WC, CC released greater amounts of carbon. Greater abundance of nitrous oxide (N2O) reductase gene (nosZ) was supported by crop residues than WC at 15.5°C, and CS and BS supported greater abundance than WC at 1.5°C. Production of N2O relative to nitrate removal (rN2O) was consistently greater at 1.5°C (7.5% of nitrate removed) than at 15.5°C (1.9%). The rN2O was lowest in CC (1.1%) and CC-WC (0.9%) and greatest in WC (9.7%). Using a compartment of agricultural residue media in series before wood chips has the potential to improve denitrifying bioreactor nitrate removal rates, but field-scale verification is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-787
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number3
Early online date2015
StatePublished - May 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. 5585 Guilford Rd., Madison, WI 53711 USA.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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