2022 Woodchip Bioreactor Partnership
Established in 2017, with the foresight of Illinois Farm Bureau, the Woodchip Bioreactor Partnership brings together the expertise of four, state-level organizations (Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois LICA, Illinois Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Illinois) to address a shared goal: improved water quality through the promotion of nutrient loss reduction strategy practice adoption. With an objective of implementing denitrifying woodchip bioreactors across the state at a rate of one per year over a five year period, the partnership’s unique approach brings awareness to water quality resource concerns impacting the Midwest by showcasing one type of conservation drainage practice effective at mitigating these concerns, through physical implementation of that practice on the landscape, while also capturing real-world research data on the practice’s performance to back it all up.
In part because of the proven success of the partnership over the last five years and in equal parts because of the continued need for outreach and education around the nutrient loss reduction strategy and its recommended conservation practices, the Woodchip Bioreactor Partnership will be extending its efforts into 2027. With 2022 marking the 6th year of the partnership, the partners have jumped head-first into their continued commitments installing the largest partnership woodchip bioreactor to-date in November 2022 with a field day pending in 2023.
Working closely with the tenant; farm manager, Farmland Solutions; and landowner, City, Water, Light, & Power (CWLP) of Springfield; the ideal opportunity arose last spring for the partnership to implement a woodchip bioreactor practice on a parcel of non-cash cropped ground that drains directly into the south side of Lake Springfield. Measuring in at 20’ x 95’ and designed to treat over 85 acres of subsurface drainage, said bioreactor marks the largest installed, by nearly two-fold, through the partnership. Despite this being the 5th woodchip bioreactor installed by the partnership, there were still notable “firsts” associated with the installation. For example, the media utilized was locally sourced and ground, different from the custom ground woodchips procured for specific chip size and species content in the previous bioreactors. Additionally, the bioreactor will be directly reducing subsurface drainage water nitrate loads that outlet into a drinking water source, Lake Springfield; not always are conservation results so immediately tangible.
Completed on the behalf of ILICA by contractor member JRH Services of Decatur, Nick Helm and his crew of about 5 guys installed the large woodchip bioreactor in roughly 3 days. Construction went very smoothly despite some additional logistics involved with transporting the volume of woodchips needed (12 semis!) and managing spoils in manner that helped meet the needs of the landowner while keeping the tenant from impacting any existing CRP contracts.
As we look forward to sharing all the site specific details and benefits of this effective water quality practice at the pending field day event in 2023, you can check out the photos and videos from construction right now at: https://www.illica.net/project-gallery. Thank you to the Woodchip Bioreactor Partnership partners, JRH Services, the Show Committee, and Springfield Plastics and Agri Drain, who supported the project through material donations and discounts.