The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded the Friends of Northern Lake Champlain (FNLC) a Conservation Innovations Grant (CIG) to develop and monitor a phosphorous removal system at the end of a subsurface drain on a Franklin, VT farm. The $50,000 grant will be used to design, monitor and evaluate two treatment systems using two different phosphorous filtering media for the next two years. Phosphorous loads will be calculated before and after treatment.
NRCS developed a new interim practice called Phosphorus Removal System for subsurface drainage to treat water coming out of tile drains. New research conducted in the Midwest shows that between 60-96% of the water that falls on a tile-drained field discharges from the tiles and at present there is no treatment for that water.
“Subsurface drains, otherwise known as tile drains, are nothing new. Farmers have been installing tiles for centuries. We used to support this practice because it was effective in reducing soil wetness and increasing crop production. Most of the tiles drain into ditches or streams off the farm fields without any treatment… Although the water looks clean from tile drains, we now know that dissolved phosphorous is coming out of the end. This project will allow us to monitor the water from 2 tile drains before and after treatment, providing us with more information about the water quality from tiles and how to best remove phosphorus from that water.” ~ Kip Potter, Water Quality Specialist for VT NRCS.
These will be the first of these systems in Vermont. Research in other parts of the country has focused on bioreactors for nitrogen removal on subsurface drainage, but no one has developed a system for phosphorous removal. According to Potter, “We have already started studying the effectiveness of different media at removing phosphorous with a group of students from UVM and some locally sourced materials are showing promising results. It is important that the material we used can be recycled into a crop management system, so there is incentive to install these systems. Flow data has already been collected and the project is underway”.
The systems will be installed in early spring of 2015.
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