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Analysis of Nitrogen Uptake in a Duckponics System

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Duckponics is an unconventional form of aquaponics that has recently been implemented by a small community in Washington State as an experiment in sustainable methods of food production. The community

Duckponics is an unconventional form of aquaponics that has recently been implemented by a small community in Washington State as an experiment in sustainable methods of food production. The community created the Duckponics system to test the possibility of using the waste of ducks present on the farm to fertilize crop plants. This research paper examines aspects of the nitrogen cycle within this system to determine the efficacy of nitrogen removal by plants and microbes. More specifically, the research examines (1) the microbial activity occurring in selected beds of the system, (2) the ability of hydroponic grow beds to retain inorganic nitrogen, and (3) how periodic flushing of the system affects nitrogen retention. Water data was collected in all system tanks using aquarium test strips, but water samples were collected for flow injection analysis in (1) one of the grow beds, (2) the duck pond, and (3) a control bed with no plants but filled with gravel and inoculated with the same bacteria from the grow bed. Samples were then analyzed for ammonia (NH4+-N) and combined nitrite and nitrate (NOx-N) concentrations. The results show that the treatment type (control, duck pond, or grow bed) was a significant (p<0.05) predictor of NH4+-N, NOx-N, and total inorganic nitrogen (TIN) in the porewater of the treatment beds. The grow bed was found to have 100% removal of TIN, whereas the control had 0% TIN removal (195% increase). Timing of the sample in relation to the flushing events was a moderately significant predictor of TIN, NH4+-N and NOx-N in the duck pond (p = 0.07 for TIN, p = 0.12 for NH4+-N, p = 0.11 for NOx-N), with an overall decrease in TIN after flood pulses. NH4+-N concentrations at the inlet and outlet were found to be significantly different in the grow bed (p=0.037), but not the control, and moderately significantly different (p<0.15) for NOx-N and TIN in the grow bed (p=0.072 for NOx-N, p=0.075 for TIN), but significant for the control (p=0.043). These findings show evidence of nitrification in the grow bed and control, plant presence significantly contributing to nitrogen removal in the grow bed, and some hydrologic flushing of NOx-N out of the duck pond during pump cycles.

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Date Created
  • 2016-05