ITS student innovates way to reduce pollution from irrigation

6
Kiki Gustinasari researches ways to reduce pollutants and create early warning systems in agricultural irrigation systems. (photo: Prive. Doc)

IO, Surabaya – Chemical fertilizers and pesticide waste from agricultural irrigation are some of the causes of water pollution. As irrigation makes up 70-90% of all water usage, this is seen as a significant problem.

Concerned with this, Kiki Gustinasari, a student from Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITS), started researching a way to reduce the pollutant effects of modern irrigation. The doctoral student from the Department of Environmental Engineering’s research was titled “Constructed Wetlands – Microbial Fuel Cells (CWs – MFCs) as Reducer Glyphosate Herbicides and Application of Biosensors for Toxicity Warning in Paddy Runoff”.

Kiki explained that the research aimed to prove that CWs and MFCs, as environmentally-friendly infrastructure, could reduce glyphosate herbicide (a type of pesticide used in the agricultural sector) residue. According to Kiki, glyphosate herbicide impairs life in the waters. “It can cause a high rate of death for amphibians, and has a lethal effect on several types of plankton,” she explained in a release received by Independent Observer, late last month.

MFCs generate energy and reduce pollution through bacterial action, while CWs are natural-based systems that are used to filter agricultural areas with bodies of water. The combining of MFCs into CWs increase the performance of CWs in reducing glyphosate herbicide levels.

The anodes in MFCs trigger anaerobic reactions in CWs. “This approach has multiple advantages, such as intensifying the performance of CWs and electricity generators,” said Kiki, who received her Masters to Doctorate for Excellent Students (PMDSU) scholarship.

MFCs-CWs in the research also acted as an early warning tool for the entry of unwanted material in paddy runoff, because the green infrastructure is able to produce electrical signals through microbial work. “Microbial work will decrease if there are toxic substances that interfere with the life of these microbes.”

Therefore, a drop in microbial work could infer the presence of unwanted substances. The decrease in work is signaled by electrical dropping. “This indication is an early warning which can be used as basis for further decisions,” said the August 1, 1994, Jombang, East Java-born student.

In her dissertation research, Kiki, guided by Prof. Ir. Joni Hermana MSc ES Ph.D., stated that many other researchers had used CWs in an attempt to manage agricultural waste. However, previous research only used CW’s to reduce pollutants. “The concept of the research I am doing is not only to reduce pollutants but also to act as an early warning system.”

The hope is that the research will be useful to the public and scientific progress. “It is possible that this research will be applied in the field, of course, with support from the government,” she added. (*/est)