Aligning with the future of agricultural practices in Minnesota, AURI 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, U.S. Department of 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.
“Many producers are interested in finding ways to address the issue of drainage,” AURI scientist Al Doering adds. “This study addresses several concerns for producers who are using or considering biofilters, as it allows them to exercise conservation and utilize agricultural fibers that they are already producing on their farm.”
The project is occurring at the USDA-ARS lab in St. Paul, Minn. The results will determine which products have the potential to warrant in-field testing. For more information on current AURI projects and research, please visit www.auri.org.