Researchers are developing bioreactors to trap and neutralize nitrate rich water that runs off our fields and farms. I've blogged in the past now heavy nitrate concentrations are creating dead zones in some of the world's offshore water.Now scientists at the U.S. Agricutlural Research Service have developed a method of tracing and trapping and converting those harmful nitrates in run-off. Key to their bioreactor process are denitrifying bacteria that are captured in polymer gels. The scientists then coined a lilting phrase to describe what happens: "immobilized denitrification sludge," or IDS.
How long the water remains in the bioreactor is crucial. Within an hour nearly half of the nitrates could be removed. For near 100% removal it takes eight hours. That means many large storage chambers and bioreactors when you're talking about most of Iowa or Kansas. Looks like there could be a great greentech business in developing underground runoff sotrage facilities that would feed through bioreactors.
This research was done by federally employed scientists at the Agricultural Research Service lab in South Carolina. With so much heat around federal subsidies and spending, it is important to note how much basic science is dependent on public funding. You think a fertilizer company would voluntarily fund this research? Taxpayer cost just over one billion dollars per year.