Student research to reduce water pollution

Posted: Monday 27th April 2015

A final year agriculture student at Harper Adams University is hoping to reduce the potential risk of water pollution from crop sprayers by using bioremediation.

Hannah Martin has devised a homemade bio filter system for use in locations where crop sprayers are filled, particularly those areas vulnerable to water pollution – known as source protection zones.

The BSc (Hons) Agriculture student has tested her filter on her family’s arable farm in Blandford Forum, Dorset, to assess its effectiveness.

22-year-old Hannah, a member of Puddletown YFC, said: “Bioremediation is a waste management technique that uses organisms to neutralise pollutants from contaminated sites, breaking substances down to become less or non-toxic.

“To minimise the effects of point source pollution when farmers fill their sprayers, in consultation with the Catchment Sensitive Farming Officer (CFSO), we have devised a bunded sprayer area where spills enter an underground tank and are then pumped to the top of a biofilter.

“This filter is a series of gravity fed IBC containers filled with straw, compost and soil; all connected with pipes. What makes this different to previous filters is it uses double the amount of containers.”

To test her filter, Hannah created mock washings using three herbicide products with active ingredients, often found in water. She took samples from each IBC container before sending them to Wessex Water for analysis.

Hannah, who plays ladies rugby, said: “Initial results suggest that the overall reduction in contaminants was significant when using the bio filter, although certain active ingredients were reduced more than others due to their scientific properties.

“I hope that my research will help farmers to reduce the risk of water pollution in source protection zones and prove a useful basis for future research.

“This could also help them to apply for Catchment Sensitive Farming grants – an incentive scheme that encourages farmers to reduce agricultural water pollution.”

Hannah chose this subject for her dissertation due to its relevance to her farm at home. She also believes that as pesticides become less available, correct stewardship will become increasingly important.

Hannah, who spent her placement year working for Helen Browning’s Organic in Swindon, hopes to travel to New Zealand following graduation, before commencing a graduate scheme within arable farming.

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September 2020

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