Pilot-Scale Denitrification Bioreactors for Replicated Field Research

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Hoover, Natasha
VanDePol, Richard
Goode, Timothy
Law, Ji Yeow
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Soupir, Michelle
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Iowa Nutrient Research Center
The Iowa Nutrient Research Center was established to pursue science-based approaches to evaluating the performance of current and emerging nutrient management practices and providing recommendations on practice implementation and development. Publications in this digital repository are products of INRC-funded research. The INRC is headquartered at Iowa State University and operates in collaboration with the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa. Additional project information is available at: https://www.cals.iastate.edu/inrc/
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Carbon-based denitrification bioreactors are designed to intercept tile drainage and are a promising technology for reducing NO3- export to surface water. While these systems have been tested extensively in the laboratory, the ability to study in-field bioreactors under controlled conditions with statistical replicates has been limited. Nine pilot-scale bioreactors (5.79 x 1.05 x 1.07 m) were designed and installed for systematic field testing, allowing for variation in retention time, fill material, and influent water quality parameters. Each bioreactor is constructed from a concrete trench in-line with influent flow control, dosing port, flow diffusion, and effluent water level control. Sampling ports are installed at two points in each bioreactor for access to water samples or fill materials. A potassium bromide (KBr) tracer study was conducted and Morrill Dispersion Index (MDI) values averaged 2.8 ± 0.3, indicating plug flow characteristics. The average tracer residence time () was 2.3 ± 0.3 h, in close agreement with the estimated hydraulic retention time (HRT) value of 2.1 ± 0.3 h, which was calculated using a porosity value of 0.70. Hydraulic efficiency was good (λ = 0.78 ± 0.03) and there was no evidence of short circuiting (S = 0.73 ± 0.03). This system is expected to provide useful insight regarding design for improved field performance of denitrification bioreactors.


This article is from Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 33(1): 83-90. (doi: 10.13031/aea.11736). Posted with permission.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2017