Use of a passive bioreactor to reduce water-borne plant pathogens, nitrate, and sulfate in greenhouse effluent.

Gruyer, N., Dorais, M., Alsanius, B.W., and Zagury, G.J. (2013). "Use of a passive bioreactor to reduce water-borne plant pathogens, nitrate, and sulfate in greenhouse effluent.", Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A: Toxic - Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering, 48(13), pp. 1740-1747. doi : 10.1080/10934529.2013.815569  Access to full text


The goal of this study was to evaluate the use of passive bioreactors to reduce water-borne plant pathogens (Pythium ultimum and Fusarium oxysporum) and nutrient load (NO(-) 3 and SO(2-) 4) in greenhouse effluent. Sterilized and unsterilized passive bioreactors filled with a reactive mixture of organic carbon material were used in three replicates. After a startup period of 2 (sterilized) or 5 (unsterilized) weeks, the bioreactor units received for 14 weeks a reconstituted commercial greenhouse effluent composed of 500 mg L(-1) SO(2-) 4 and 300 mg L(-1) NO(-) 3 and were inoculated three times with P. ultimum and F. oxysporum (10(6) CFU mL(-1)). Efficacy in removing water-borne plant pathogens and nitrate reached 99.9% for both the sterilized and unsterilized bioreactors. However, efficacy in reducing the SO(2-) 4 load sharply decreased from 89% to 29% after 2 weeks of NO(-) 3-supply treatment for the unsterilized bioreactors. Although SO(2-) 4 removal efficacy for the sterilized bioreactors did not recover after 4 weeks of NO(-) 3-supply treatment, the unsterilized bioreactor nearly reached a similar level of SO(2-) 4 removal after 4 weeks of NO(-) 3-supply treatment compared with affluent loaded only with SO(2-) 4, where no competition for the carbohydrate source occurred between the denitrification process and sulfate-reducing bacteria activity. Performance differences between the sterilized and unsterilized bioreactors clearly show the predominant importance of sulfate-reducing bacteria. Consequently, when sulfate-reducing bacteria reach their optimal activity, passive bioreactors may constitute a cheap, low-maintenance method of treating greenhouse effluent to recycle wastewater and eliminate nutrient runoff, which has important environmental impacts.

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