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Frontiers of Environmental Science & Engineering

Front. Environ. Sci. Eng.    2017, Vol. 11 Issue (3) : 2     DOI: 10.1007/s11783-017-0909-7
Scientifically advanced woody media for improved water quality from livestock woodchip heavy-use areas
Laura Christianson1(), David DeVallance2, Joshua Faulkner3, Thomas Basden4
1. Crop Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
2. Wood Science and Technology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
3. University of Vermont Extension, UVM Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Burlington, VT 05401, USA
4. West Virginia University Extension, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA
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A column study showed woody media reduced liquid waste volume compared to gravel.

Mixtures of torrefied wood and biochar improved nutrient concentration reductions.

Total N removal was improved by retaining the liquid in the wood media for 48 h.

Unmodified Mixed Hardwood may be most cost effective HUA media.

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.

Keywords Overwinter      Heavy-use area      Nutrient pollution      Torrefied      Woodchip     
This article is part of themed collection: Livestock Waste Management and Resource Recovery
Corresponding Authors: Laura Christianson   
Issue Date: 27 March 2017
 Cite this article:   
Laura Christianson,David DeVallance,Joshua Faulkner, et al. Scientifically advanced woody media for improved water quality from livestock woodchip heavy-use areas[J]. Front. Environ. Sci. Eng., 2017, 11(3): 2.
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Laura Christianson
David DeVallance
Joshua Faulkner
Thomas Basden
referencewoodchip HUA locationtotal nitrogen
/(mg TN·L−1)
/(mg NH4+-N·L−1)
/(mg NO3-N·L−1)
total phosphorus
/(mg TP·L−1)
[]one site, West Virginia<0.065±256.2±3.0
[]four sites, Scotland: cattle-on480±179270±148113±92
[]four sites, Scotland: cattle-off145±9879.1±86.279.7±12.1
[]2004 Trial Ireland a)460270ND101
[]2005 Trial Ireland a)340215ND44
[]six sites, Ireland353±312217±20235.2±15.4
[]nine sites, Scotland443 to 10603 to 13
[]one site, UK: pre-animal b)448.0c)27.6
[]one site, UK: with animals b)9939.4c)36.4
[]one site, UK: pre-animal b)479.4c)23.9
[]one site, UK: with animals b)15062c)36.8
Tab.1  Review of drainage water quality leaving woodchip heavy-use areas (HUAs)
Fig.1  Illustration of seven columns used in simulated runoff events and 48 h retention test to evaluate advanced wood media for use in woodchip heavy-use areas. Treatment abbreviations: white oak, WO; hardwood, HW; torrefied, TR; biochar, BC
test typevolume
total Kjeldahl nitrogen
/(mg TKN·L1)
/(mg NO3--N·L1)
total phosphorus
/(mg TP·L1)
event 135085–8812–6118–20
event 280081–10317–4316–19
event 3129086–9523–3417–20
48 h test10340–1314093–10529–5918–20
Tab.2  Range of initial water volumes and nutrient concentrations in liquid waste added to the columns in three simulated events and a 48 h retention time test
Fig.2  Volume reductions (a) and total Kjeldahl nitrogen (b), nitrate-nitrogen (c), and total phosphorus (d) concentration reductions for three simulated events for seven media treatments in a column study; sequentially lighter bars for each treatment indicated sequential simulated events of 1.1, 2.5, and 4.0 cm liquid applied
treatmentwater volumetotal nitrogentotal phosphorus
total L retainedremoval efficiency /% a)total mg TN retainedmass removal efficiency /% a,b)total mg TP retainedmass removal efficiency /% a,b)
white oak (WO)1.3261a)1415726.966
mixed hardwood1.2157a)1215127.966
WO+ WO torr@225°1.2056a)1475526.164
WO+ WO torr@225° + biochar1.2457a)1275424.665
WO+ WO torr@275°1.0853a)1255421.960
WO+ WO torr@275° + biochar1.2459a)1426025.568
Tab.3  Total leachate volume, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus retained by seven treatments over three simulated events and corresponding mean removal efficiencies
Fig.3  Volume and total Kjeldahl nitrogen, nitrate-nitrogen, and total phosphorus concentration reductions following a 48 h retention time in seven columns
treatmentwater volumetotal nitrogentotal phosphorus
total L retainedremoval efficiency /%total mg TN retainedmass removal efficiency /%total mg TP retainedmass removal efficiency /%
white oak (WO)5.304013086711147
mixed hardwood5.144112806514764
WO+ WO torr@225°4.323810116410349
WO+ WO torr@225° + biochar4.46418916312059
WO+ WO torr@275°4.08358385710850
WO+ WO torr@275° + biochar4.54407625513061
Tab.4  Total liquid, total nitrogen, and total phosphorus retained by seven treatments following a 48 h retention time test and corresponding mean removal efficiencies
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