Cultivation of rice for animal feed with circulated irrigation of treated municipal wastewater for enhanced nitrogen removal: comparison of cultivation systems feeding irrigation water upward and downward

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

To achieve enhanced nitrogen removal, we modified a cultivation system with circulated irrigation of treated municipal wastewater by using rice for animal feed instead of human consumption. The performance of this modified system was evaluated through a bench-scale experiment by comparing the direction of circulated irrigation (i.e. passing through paddy soil upward and downward). The modified system achieved more than three times higher nitrogen removal (3.2 g) than the system in which rice for human consumption was cultivated. The removal efficiency was higher than 99.5%, regardless of the direction of circulated irrigation. Nitrogen in the treated municipal wastewater was adsorbed by the rice plant in this cultivation system as effectively as chemical fertilizer used in normal paddy fields. Circulated irrigation increased the nitrogen released to the atmosphere, probably due to enhanced denitrification. Neither the circulation of irrigation water nor its direction affected the growth of the rice plant and the yield and quality of harvested rice. The yield of rice harvested in this system did not reach the target value in normal paddy fields. To increase this yield, a larger amount of treated wastewater should be applied to the system, considering the significant amount of nitrogen released to the atmosphere.

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