Science for Solutions: Fifth Seminar of Series

Posted: January 27, 2015

The Penn State Center for Nutrient Solutions continues "Science for Solutions" seminar series this Spring. Join in exploring the many disciplines and approaches in addressing the complex nutrient problem.
Mason King

Mason King

About this Seminar

The title of this seminar is "Urea Production from Saturated Coastal Plain Drainage Ditch Sediments" and will be presented by Mason King from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Urea is a ubiquitous agricultural fertilizer implicated in the development of harmful algae blooms when coastal concentrations exceed 60 ug urea-N L-1. However, research shows that transport of applied urea to water bodies is unlikely under normal conditions despite observations of high urea concentrations in coastal plain drainage ditches. There is evidence that agricultural drainage ditches generate urea as flow stagnates following rainfall, a process that may be fueled by groundwater nitrogen. Novel research that assesses the potential for autochthonous urea formation in ditches is being investigated at UMES. The approach involves field monitoring of rainfall and farm ditches combined with an indoor mesocosm experiment. The mesocosm experiment employed sediment samples to simulate stagnant saturated field conditions.

Preliminary results indicate that urea was formed by mescosms’ saturated sediments within 8-hours of incubation for all replications, and environments. The most urea was generated by sediment from an agricultural ditch that had not been cleaned for 14 years. These results appear to correspond with ongoing field monitoring data.  Certain ditch sediments may affect urea cycling and movement, and thus be an important driver of watershed dissolved organic nitrogen composition. Our work is continuing to identify and characterize coastal plain ditches that generate elevated urea concentrations. 

Authors: Mason King, Ray Bryant, Anthony Buda, Arthur Allen, and Eric May

Webinar Recording

Watch a recording of this webinar at

For More Information

To learn more about nutrient pollution, visit the Penn State Center for Nutrient Solutions website at

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This seminar series is sponsored by the Agriculture and Environment Center, Center for Nutrient Pollution Solutions, College of Agricultural Sciences, Riparia, Penn State Institutes of Energy and the Environment, and the Pennsylvania Water Resources Research Center.


Contact Information



(814) 863-8756