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user picture Sean McMahon

City of Des Moines Investing in Farmers' Conservation Practices: Video on Installation of Bioreactor

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The City of Des Moines is investing in farmers implementing conservation practices that improve water quality, including edge-of-field practices like saturated buffers and bioreactors. Check out this new view of an installation of a denitrifying woodchip bioreactor on a farm in the Easter Lake watershed within the city limits.

DYK that the woodchips serve as a carbon source for bacteria which 'breath in' nitrate (NO3) and 'breathe out' harmless nitrogen (N2) gas? 

It's estimated that in order to successfully implement the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, that Iowa will need ~120,000 combined bioreactors and saturated buffers. We currently only have about 115 of these practices installed, but we have plans to more than double that in the next 12 months .

  • Soil & Water Management
  • Sustainability

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Have read about bioreactors, but it is good to see the installation video to better understand the process.

What is the cost to install a bioreactor?


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Hi, Paul. Bioreactors treating 50-80 acres usually start around $10-12K but can be more expensive if they’re larger in order to treat bigger areas. That estimate would include siting, design, woodchips, drainage control structure and installation, Fortunately federal and state cost share is available to cover most or all of those costs, such as the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Iowa Dept. of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Water Quality Initiative (WQI). Other entities like Iowa Pork and IAWA have also helped to pay for installations.

Saturated buffers are a bit cheaper and easier to install, usually in the $3-5K range.

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Thanks Sean. From my reading of the various state nutrient loss reduction plans or strategies it seems bioreactors and saturated buffers are as important or effective as are the key 4R stewardship measures such as right rate, timing, form, and place. 

Would you agree?

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