Scientifically advanced woody media for improved water quality from livestock woodchip heavy-use areas
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- Christianson, L., DeVallance, D., Faulkner, J. et al. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng. (2017) 11: 2. doi:10.1007/s11783-017-0909-7
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Overwintering cattle on pastures in many areas can damage the pasture and lead to impaired water quality. During these times, use of a woodchip heavy-use area (HUA) presents advantages such as a soft, supportive, and dry foot surface for animals and protection of the pasture and pasture soils. However, woodchip HUAs can also be a centralized source of high nutrient loads due to their drainage outflows. A column study was conducted to assess the nutrient load reduction potential of: 1) six types of wood media (including torrefied wood media and biochar) that could be used in a woodchip HUA versus a gravel control, and 2) providing a 48 h retention time within the wood media to enhance nitrogen removal through denitrification. The woody media provided significant liquid waste volume reduction compared to the gravel in simulated events (53%–61% vs. 39% reductions, respectively), and there may be additional liquid storage capacity in the woodchips not utilized during these rapid events. Substantial total nitrogen removal by the wood treatments (mean removal efficiencies >50%) was observed across the simulated events, although nitrate leaching also occurred. Nitrate removal was enhanced during the 48 h retention test which showed removal was governed by availability of labile carbon (i.e., fresh woodchips exhibited >70% nitrate removal). The retention test also indicated biochar mixtures provided some of the best total phosphorus removal, but the greatest benefits across all parameters was provided by the Mixed Hardwood treatment.