Protocol and interactive routine for the design of subsurface bioreactors

Richard A. Cooke, Natasha L. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One potential practice to reduce nitrate and phosphate transfer from subsurface (tile)-drained farmlands is the use of fixed-bed, in-field subsurface bioreactors. These bioreactors are trenches filled with carbon material (usually wood chips), which serve as a medium for denitrifying bacteria to grow, thus reducing the amount of nitrate that enters water bodies from tile drains. If a bioreactor is undersized, water will not be detained long enough for denitrification to occur, or much of the water will bypass the system. On the other hand, if it is oversized, extreme reducing conditions can result in the formation of deleterious compounds. In this article, we propose a new protocol for optimizing the size of a bioreactor, describe an interactive routine in which this protocol has been implemented, and present the application of the routine to the design of a bioreactor in southern Minnesota. The routine is available in the online version of the Illinois Drainage Guide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)761-771
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Engineering in Agriculture
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Bioreactor
  • Hypoxia
  • Nitrate reduction
  • Non-point source pollution
  • Tile drainage
  • Visual basic 6.0

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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