In situ denitrification in saturated riparian buffers

Tyler A. Groh, Morgan P. Davis, Thomas M. Isenhart, Dan B. Jaynes, Timothy B. Parkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Excess NO 3 leaching from the agricultural Midwest via tile drainage water has contributed to both local drinking water and national Gulf of Mexico benthic hypoxia concerns. Both in-field and edge-of-field practices have been designed to help mitigate NO 3 flux to surface waters. Edge-of-field practices focus on maximizing microbial denitrification, the conversion of NO 3 to N 2 gas. This study assessed denitrification rates from two saturated riparian buffers (SRBs) for 2 yr and a third SRB for 1 yr, for a total of five sample years. These SRBs were created by diverting NO 3 –rich tile drainage water into riparian buffers soils. The SRBs in this study removed between 27 and 96% of the total diverted NO 3 load. Measured cumulative average denitrification rate for each SRB sample year accounted for between 3.7 and 77.3% of the total NO 3 removed. Both the cumulative maximum and 90% confidence interval denitrification rates accounted for all of the NO 3 removed by the SRBs in three of the five sample years, indicating that denitrification can be a dominant NO 3 removal mechanism in this edge-of-field practice. When adding the top 20 cm of each core to the cumulative denitrification rates for each SRB, denitrification accounted for between 33 and over 100% of the total NO 3 removed. Buffer age (time since establishment) was speculated to enhance denitrification rates, and there was a trend of the soil closer to the surface making up the majority of the total denitrification rate. Finally, both NO 3 and C could limit denitrification in these SRBs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)376-384
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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