Drying–Rewetting Cycles Affect Nitrate Removal Rates in Woodchip Bioreactors

Maxwell, Bryan M.
Birgand, François
Schipper, Louis A.
Christianson, Laura E.
Tian, Shiying
Helmers, Matthew
Williams, David J.
Chescheir, George M.
Youssef, Mohamed A.
Major Professor
Committee Member
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Woodchip bioreactors are widely used to control nitrogen export from agriculture using denitrification. There is abundant evidence that drying–rewetting (DRW) cycles can promote enhanced metabolic rates in soils. A 287-d experiment investigated the effects of weekly DRW cycles on nitrate (NO3) removal in woodchip columns in the laboratory receiving constant flow of nitrated water. Columns were exposed to continuous saturation (SAT) or to weekly, 8-h drying-rewetting (8 h of aerobiosis followed by saturation) cycles (DRW). Nitrate concentrations were measured at the column outlets every 2 h using novel multiplexed sampling methods coupled to spectrophotometric analysis. Drying–rewetting columns showed greater export of total and dissolved organic carbon and increased NO3 removal rates. Nitrate removal rates in DRW columns increased by up to 80%, relative to SAT columns, although DRW removal rates decreased quickly within 3 d after rewetting. Increased NO3 removal in DRW columns continued even after 39 DRW cycles, with ∼33% higher total NO3 mass removed over each weekly DRW cycle. Data collected in this experiment provide strong evidence that DRW cycles can dramatically improve NO3 removal in woodchip bioreactors, with carbon availability being a likely driver of improved efficiency. These results have implications for hydraulic management of woodchip bioreactors and other denitrification practices.
This is the published version of the following article: Maxwell, Bryan M., François Birgand, Louis A. Schipper, Laura E. Christianson, Shiying Tian, Matthew J. Helmers, David J. Williams, George M. Chescheir, and Mohamed A. Youssef. "Drying–rewetting cycles affect nitrate removal rates in woodchip bioreactors." Journal of Environmental Quality 48, no. 1 (2019): 93-101. DOI: 10.2134/jeq2018.05.0199. Works produced by employees of the U.S. Government as part of their official duties are not copyrighted within the U.S. The content of this document is not copyrighted.