Publication Abstract

Investigation of Denitrifying Microbial Communities within an Agricultural Drainage System Fitted with Low-grade Weirs

Baker, B. H., Kroger, R., Brooks, J. P., Smith, R. K., & Prince Czarnecki, J. M. (2015). Investigation of Denitrifying Microbial Communities within an Agricultural Drainage System Fitted with Low-grade Weirs. Water Research. 87, 193-201. DOI:10.1016/j.watres.2015.09.028.


Enhancing wetland characteristics in agricultural drainage ditches with the use of low-grade weirs, has been identified as a best management practice (BMP) to mitigate nutrient runoff from agriculture landscapes. A major objective of utilizing low-grade weirs as a BMP includes fostering environments suitable for the biogeochemical removal of nitrogen via denitrification. This study examined the spatial resolution of microbial communities involved in denitrification in agricultural drainage systems fitted with low-grade weirs. Appropriate sampling scales of microbial communities were investigated using 16S rRNA and denitrification functional genes nosZ, nirS, and nirK via quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) and terminal-restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) analysis. Genes 16S rRNA, nosZ, and nirS were all successfully detected in soil samples, while nirK was below the detection limit throughout the study. Utilizing a combination of three sampling regimes (management, reach, catchment) was found to be effective in capturing microbial community patterns, as ANOVA results revealed nosZ gene abundance was significantly greater at the management rather than reach scale (p = 0.045; F = 3.311), although, no significant differences were observed in 16S rRNA or nirS between sampling scales (p > 0.05). A Pearson correlation matrix confirmed that 16S rRNA and nosZ gene abundances were positively correlated with soil carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and moisture, while nirS abundance was only positively correlated with soil C and soil moisture. This highlights the potential for wetland-like characteristics to be recovered in agricultural drainage systems, as weir proximity is observed to enhance soil moisture and conditions for N remediation. This study provides the basis for additional investigations of these unique environments in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley and a starting point for adaptive management to enhance agricultural drainage systems for microbial communities towards nutrient remediation goals.