Approximately 45% of the land that drains to the Nanticoke River is in agricultural production. For years, farmers have reduced runoff using vegetative buffers and cover crops.
Bioreactors are another great way to reduce harmful runoff.
Benefits of a Bioreactor:
– A proven technology
– Require little maintenance
– Use very little farmable land
– Last up to 20 years
– Can improve drainage effectiveness
– Funding is available for design & installation
Bioreactors remove nitrates from farm runoff to send cleaner water downstream. A bioreactor is basically a Mac-truck-sized pit filled with wood chips. These wood chips hold healthy bacteria that can reduce nitrate levels for up to ten years! Joe Layton, a local family farmer.
A wood chip bioreactor is basically a hole in the ground 20’ wide by 100’ long by 5’ deep, filled with wood chips. The site is usually selected on the low edge of the farm field where the rainwater drains from the field into a ditch that feeds into a local waterway. Water from the farm is diverted into the bioreactor where a natural organic process takes place, removing 90% of the nitrates. The rainwater with the nitrates, filters through the carbon from the wood chips in this low oxygen environment, causing a reaction with bacteria that make the nitrates come out of the water and turn into harmless nitrogen gas. The air we typically breathe is 21% oxygen and 78% nitrogen.
Joe Layton, NWA board member and farmer, grows poultry feed on a 120-acre property in Dorchester County near Route 50. The NWA is partnering with additional organizations like Ridge to Reefs to install a bioreactor on Joe’s farm to remove excess nutrients that would normally run off into the local waterways. Stay tuned; in August farmers and interested folks will be invited to see the bioreactor under construction and learn more!
Learn More about bioreactors on Ridge To Reef‘s website. You can watch a video here that explains how bioreactors filter water and handle high flows during storms.
We look forward to working with more farmers to implement on the ground projects that keep our waterways clean and our farming community profitable.