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Governor Branstad visits state’s first bioreactor

Keegan Kult, environmental scientist with the Iowa Soybean Association, explains how a bioreactor works to Governor Terry Branstad. Photo by Ben Nuelle.

by Ben Nuelle

Governor Terry Branstad visited a bioreactor near Jefferson Monday. Branstad made a stop at Mike Barvard’s farm north of Jefferson to see one of the state’s first bioreactors built in 2008.

“We have stock boards like this we can raise and lower. You are actually standing over a pipe that diverts water and you can kind of see and outline where the woodchips will be. You can kind of see this rectangle. This one is about 50 feet long by 25 feet wide,” says Environmental Scientist Keegan Kult with Iowa Soybean Association.

“This is a denitrifying bioreactor which is a edge of field practice treating tile drainage. What we do is divert a portion of that tile flow through an underground bed of wood chips and those wood chips feed soil microorganisms down there and that spurs denitrification. So we’re actually removing nitrogen from the system before we re-introduce water into the stream.”

Corn and Soybean farmer Mike Barvard partnered with the Iowa Soybean Association to build this bioreactor.

“I think we’re all in this together. We as farmers are part of the solution in working to get better water quality.”

Branstad says he made the stop to understand more about how they work.

“I think as governor of an agriculture state, it is important to be as knowledgeable as I can be so I can be a good advocate for the funding we need and support for these practices.”

Since 2008, Iowa Soybean Association has been a part of 19 other bioreactor installations. Kult says farmers can get cost-share through federal and state funding to build a bioreactor on their farm.