Recently some farmers in the United States have been putting a woodchip bioreactor between their crops and the waterways. This is similar to a buffer zone, the runoff goes through the woodchip bioreactor the same way it would go through the plant life in the buffer zone. In both cases, nitrates are absorbed or filtered out of the runoff. Woodchip bioreactors don’t remove all the nitrates but can reduce nitrates by 12% - 74%. However, these buffers only have a life of 10 years.
Prince Edward Island is known for our potatoes, and with potato farming catch crops also known as cover crops are often used. “A catch crop is a crop grown in the same year as the main crop but after the main crop. The main role of cover crops, in this case, is to protect the soil from erosion and to prevent leaching of nutrients unused by the potatoes.” (EAP, 1997). Crop rotations are another way of using cover crops. PEI regulations state that regulated crops, such as potatoes, cannot be planted in the same field more than once in three years.
Drainage and Nutrient Management
Drainage management involves regulating the runoff of nutrients that drain from agricultural fields that help prevent degradation of the water in local streams and lakes. Nutrient management is the regulation of fertilizers. This includes applying fertilizers in the proper amount and with the right method. These are regulated through the Fertilizer Act of Canada. The penalties, for not following regulations can be considered too lenient. Some large companies may feel it is worth it to just pay the fine, the rewards may outweigh the risks in these cases.
When considering removal options there are two types, natural and man-made. Both use similar concepts of creating ecosystems to use up the excess nitrates.
Floating EcoSystems are created out of recycled bottles and can be custom made for location. The size and the types of vegetation change depending needs of the location, and the price depends on these factors.
“A study conducted by scientists from the University of Rhode Island recently discovered that beaver dams can help remove up to 45 percent of harmful nitrogen from streams and creeks.”(Potomac, 2016)
Beaver Dams create ecosystems naturally, the pond that is formed behind the beaver’s dam becomes the habitat for aquatic plants and bacteria that absorb and use the nitrates.