Aligning with the future of agricultural practices in Minnesota, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, an organization committed to providing scientific and technical assistance to Minnesota industries and entrepreneurs, is conducting a 15-month study testing the ability of crop residues to clean up water drained from agricultural lands. At a recent ceremony at the Minnesota Capitol, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a memorandum, agreeing to the development of a new state program for farmers designed to increase the voluntary adoption of conservation practices that protect local rivers, streams and other waters by reducing fertilizer run-off and soil erosion.
AURI’s study is focused on bioreactors, also known as biofilters, which have historically been made from wood chips or straw. The high cost of these products encouraged AURI to research other available materials producers could use. AURI is evaluating and comparing the effectiveness of agricultural residues versus wood in bioreactors, offering a potential use for agricultural byproducts such as corn stover and wheat and barley straw. These fibers could also increase bioreactor efficiency, improve drainage water quality and potentially increase the number of acres that a single reactor can treat.
“Bioreactors can reduce nitrate concentration in drainage water by 30 to 70 percent, which is substantial,” said Gary Feyereisen, agricultural engineer with the USDA Agricultural Research Service in St. Paul.