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Use of Zeolite and Surfactant Modified Zeolite as Ion Exchangers to Control Nitrate Leaching

Authors: R. Malekian, J. Abedi-Koupai, S. S. Eslamian


Nitrogen loss from irrigated cropland, particularly sandy soils, significantly contributes to nitrate (NO3 -) levels in surface and groundwaters. Thus, it is of great interest to use inexpensive natural products that can increase the fertilizer efficiency and decrease nitrate leaching. In this study, the ability of natural Iranian zeolite clinoptilolite (Cp) and surfactant modified zeolite clinoptilolite (SMZ) to remove NH4 + and NO3 -, respectively, from aqueous solutions was determined. The feasibility of using Cp and SMZ as soil amendment to reduce nitrate leaching from soil using lysimeters was also investigated. Zeolite showed 10.23% to 88.42% NH4 + removal efficiency over a wide range of initial NH4 + concentrations. Nitrate removal efficiency by SMZ was 32.26% to 82.26%. Field study results showed that Cp and SMZ significantly (p < 0.05) reduced leachate NO3-N concentration compared to control. There was no significant difference between maximum and mean leachate NO3-N concentration of SMZ lysimeters and those of Cp lysimeters.

Keywords: Ammonium removal, Leaching, Nitrate removal, Surfactant modified zeolite

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