Escherichia coli transport from surface-applied manure to subsurface drains through artificial biopores

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Received for publication March 3, 2009. Bacteria transport in soils primarily occurs through soil mesopores and macropores (e.g., biopores and cracks). Field research has demonstrated that biopores and subsurface drains can be hydraulically connected. This research was conducted to investigate the importance of surface connected and disconnected (buried) biopores on Escherichia coli (E. coli) transport when biopores are located near subsurface drains. A soil column (28 by 50 by 95 cm) was packed with loamy sand and sandy loam soils to bulk densities of 1.6 and 1.4 Mg m–3, respectively, and containing an artificial biopore located directly above a subsurface drain. The sandy loam soil was packed using two different methods: moist soil sieved to 4.0 mm and air-dried soil manually crushed and then sieved to 2.8 mm. A 1-cm constant head was induced on the soil surface in three flushes: (i) water, (ii) diluted liquid swine (Sus scrofa) manure 48 h later, and (iii) water 48 h after the manure. Escherichia coli transport to the drain was observed with either open surface connected or buried biopores. In surface connected biopores, E. coli transport was a function of the soil type and the layer thickness between the end of the biopore and drain. Buried biopores contributed flow and E. coli in the less sorptive soil (loamy sand) and the sorptive soil (sandy loam) containing a wide (i.e., with mesopores) pore space distribution prevalent due to the moist soil packing technique. Biopores provide a mechanism for rapidly transporting E. coli into subsurface drains during flow events.

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