Nebraska Environmental Trust awards grant to NU/Nebraska Water Center to research nitrate mitigation
June 18, 2018
LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska Environmental Trust recently awarded $85,000 to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents to fund a new research project, "Novel approaches for controlling nitrate leaching and protecting Nebraska groundwater," conducted by the Nebraska Water Center, part of the Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute. This is the first year of award with a potential for second-year funding totaling $79,306.
Nitrate is the most common contaminant affecting ground water quality worldwide and a frequent compliance issue in public drinking water supplies throughout the United States and Nebraska. Though much effect has been directed at nitrogen and irrigation water management, few alternatives exist to treat nitrate lost from the crops. This project will demonstrate how subsoil injection of an abundant carbon source (recycled sawdust and wood shavings) will establish a biologically active layer for interception and removing dissolved nitrate after it has left the crop root zone. Bench tests will be conducted to evaluate the best recycled wood sources, proper depth to intercept leaching nitrate, and be followed with a two-year pilot study on three to four cooperator fields in Nebraska. The information collected will permit a cost/benefit analysis to determine the economic feasibility of using this practice to treat nitrate-N in recharge water beneath fertilized crop land.
"This project is innovative because it provides a new, economical approach for improving groundwater quality," said Daniel Snow, director of services at the University of Nebraska's Water Sciences Laboratory and the project's lead investigator. "Additionally, it could help Nebraska producers better understand the environmental need for protecting water quality."
The overall goal is to offer a cost-effective method for producers and Nebraska Natural Resources Districts for reducing nitrate-N leaching beneath fertilized cropland in areas that are most vulnerable to ground-water contamination. Extension and outreach efforts will be directed toward increasing adoption of this and related management practices to control nitrate leaching across Nebraska. The research team intends to leverage data and programs from NRDs, and previous NET projects to help create a product that can fill a gap in protecting Nebraska ground water resources. In addition to Snow, the team includes Chittaranjan Ray, director of the Nebraska Water Center; Amy Schmidt, assistant professor, department of biological systems engineering, University of Nebraska; and Daniel Miller, research microbiologist with USDA's Agricultural Research Service.