Performance of denitrifying bioreactors at reducing agricultural nitrogen pollution in a humid subtropical coastal plain climate

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Denitrifying bioreactors are an agricultural best management practice developed in the midwestern United States to treat agricultural drainage water enriched with nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N). The practice is spreading rapidly to agricultural regions with poor water quality due to nutrient enrichment. This makes it imperative to track bioreactor NO3-N reduction efficiency as this practice gets deployed to new regions. This study evaluated the application and performance of denitrifying bioreactors in the humid subtropical coastal plain environment of the Chesapeake Bay catchment to provide data about regionally specific NO3-N reduction efficiencies. NO3-N samples were taken before and after treatment at three denitrifying bioreactors, in addition to other nutrients (orthophosphate-phosphorus, PO4-P; ammonium-nitrogen, NH4-N; total nitrogen, TN; total phosphorus, TP) and water quality parameters (dissolved oxygen, DO; oxidation reduction potential, ORP; pH; specific conductance, SPC). Total removal ranged drastically between bioreactors from 10 to 133 kg N, with removal efficiencies of 9.0% to 62% and N removal rates of 0.21 to 5.36 g N removed per m3 of bioreactor per day. As the first bioreactor study in the humid subtropical coastal plain, this data provides positive proof of concept that denitrifying bioreactor is another tool for reducing N loads in agricultural tile drainage in this region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017



  • Agriculture
  • Best management practice
  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Dairy
  • Denitrifying bioreactor
  • Humid suptropical
  • Nitrate
  • Nitrogen
  • Tile drainage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology

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