Boosting Soil Nitrogen Using Mushroom-Based Water Treatment

Jenn Hoskins
17th June, 2024

Boosting Soil Nitrogen Using Mushroom-Based Water Treatment

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • The study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explored using HTL-AP to enhance crop growth by increasing its inorganic nitrogen content
  • Trametes versicolor fungus was used to treat diluted HTL-AP, significantly increasing nitrate and ammonium levels after three days
  • The inclusion of nitrifying bacteria in the fungal treatment process doubled the nitrate concentration compared to fungal treatment alone
Hydrothermal liquefaction aqueous phase (HTL-AP) is a byproduct derived from the process of converting wet biomass into biocrude oil. This nutrient-rich wastewater poses disposal challenges but holds potential for repurposing to benefit agricultural practices. A recent study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign[1] explores the possibility of using HTL-AP to enhance crop growth by increasing its inorganic nitrogen content, specifically focusing on nitrate (NO3-) and ammonium (NH3/NH4+), through fungal remediation. HTL-AP contains various organic pollutants and low molecular weight acids, making its disposal difficult on an industrial scale. Previous studies have highlighted the potential of reusing HTL-AP as a reaction medium in the HTL process or as a growth medium for algae and microbes[2]. Moreover, biological systems have been reviewed for their ability to valorize HTL wastewater by recapturing organic matter and nutrients, which is beneficial for both the environment and energy recovery[3]. Building on these insights, the new study investigates the use of Trametes versicolor, a white-rot fungus known for degrading a range of organic pollutants, to treat HTL-AP and increase its inorganic nitrogen content for hydroponic systems. In the study, a diluted (5%) HTL-AP was treated with Trametes versicolor for nine days. Although no fungal growth was observed, laccase activity throughout the cultivation period indicated the fungus's metabolic activity. After three days of fungal treatment, the concentrations of nitrate and ammonium increased significantly—by 17 and 8 times, respectively. This three-day period was identified as the optimal treatment duration, resulting in the highest concentration of nitrate. Additionally, the inclusion of nitrifying bacteria in the fungal treatment process led to a twofold increase in nitrate concentration compared to fungal treatment alone, demonstrating enhanced treatment efficacy. The study also reported a 51.33% reduction in Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) within the first 24 hours of fungal treatment, suggesting the fungus's capability to decrease the concentration of organic compounds in the wastewater. However, COD levels increased in the following days, which could be attributed to the release of fungal byproducts. These findings highlight the potential of Trametes versicolor as a candidate for increasing inorganic nitrogen in HTL-AP, although future research should address HTL-AP toxicity and further optimize the balance between ammonium reduction and nitrate increase. Previous research supports the potential of biological systems, including specific bacterial strains, to convert HTL-AP into valuable products. For instance, Rhodococci strains have shown promising results in converting HTL-AP into lipids, with significant reductions in chemical oxygen demand and an increase in lipid accumulation[4]. The current study extends this line of inquiry by demonstrating the effectiveness of fungal remediation in enhancing the nutrient profile of HTL-AP, making it more suitable for agricultural applications such as hydroponics. In summary, the study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign provides a promising approach to repurposing HTL-AP by using Trametes versicolor to increase its inorganic nitrogen content. This method not only addresses the disposal challenges associated with HTL-AP but also offers a sustainable solution for enhancing crop growth in hydroponic systems. Future research should focus on mitigating HTL-AP toxicity, optimizing nitrogen transformation, and evaluating the practical applications of treated HTL-AP in agricultural settings.



Main Study

1) Hydrothermal liquefaction aqueous phase mycoremediation to increase inorganic nitrogen availability.

Published 15th June, 2024

Related Studies

2) Review on hydrothermal liquefaction aqueous phase as a valuable resource for biofuels, bio-hydrogen and valuable bio-chemicals recovery.

3) Biological systems for treatment and valorization of wastewater generated from hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass and systems thinking: A review.

4) Biological conversion of the aqueous wastes from hydrothermal liquefaction of algae and pine wood by Rhodococci.

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