Biobeds for managing pesticide rinsate in Canada

A robust biobed design for managing pesticide rinsate under Canadian conditions: construction, operation and maintenance manual

This manual provides information on the design, construction, operation and maintenance of pesticide rinsate biobeds in Canada. It is written from a Prairie perspective but most of the information is applicable or easily adaptable to other regions in Canada. The information presented borrows heavily from the extensive European experience which was enhanced by four years of laboratory and field studies, as well as three years of recent testing of the proposed design in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Because there are still some information gaps, the manual is expected to be updated as new knowledge is gained.

A robust biobed design for managing pesticide rinsate under Canadian conditions: construction, operation and maintenance manual is available from Government of Canada Publications.


Research Scientist, Dr. Tobias Laengle, explains how biobeds work and the benefits of having them on farms across Canada.


[Upbeat music begins]

Text on screen: Biobeds AAFC

[Images of various biobeds transition onto the screen.]

[Tobias Laengle talks to the camera.]

Text on screen: Dr. Tobias Laengle – Biologist – St. John's Research and Development Centre – Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

So a biobed is essentially a bio filter that can be used to remove pesticide residue from contaminated water, such as water that comes from rinsing tractors and rinsing sprayers…

[Someone pressure washes a tractor with water.]

…and it is very effective in removing pesticides that would otherwise enter the environment.

[A close-up view of a combine harvester driving through a field.]

It is something that's easy to understand, easy to communicate, easy to build and makes a big difference.

[A group of people build a large wooden box for a biobed.]

I know from growing my own crops how hard it is to manage the pests, even in research plots.

[A close-up view of an insect standing on a crop of wheat.]

And I have a lot of, I think, empathy for growers…

[Slow motion footage of a grasshopper jumping off a piece of grass.]

…how hard it is to grow crops in a way that is economical.

[An aerial view of a tractor spraying pesticide on a field of cabbage.]

I know that pesticides, integrated pest management are part of, you know, every cropping system and so seeing that, you know, you can reduce pesticide residue in the system…

[A farm worker checks the hoses in a biobed.]

…by well above 90% is very satisfying.

There are studies that show that a large portion of pesticides found in waterbodies…

[An aerial view of a creek between two fields.]

…both surface and groundwater, originate from from pesticide handling areas.

So these are the areas where a farmer would, you know, fill their sprayer…

[An overhead view of two tractors, one with a sprayer attached, the other with a large water cistern.]

…with pesticides, add water, and then they come back after using the tractor and they would clean the tractor, clean the sprayer.

They need somewhere to dispose of any leftover product in the sprayer and the pesticide rinsate biobed gives them a means to do that.

[A schematic diagram of a biobed.]

You need a storage tank for the untreated rinsate, a storage tank for the treated rinsate…

[A close-up view of a biobed and water tanks.]

…three pumps to transfer water from the first storage tank into the biobed…

[A close-up view of a schematic diagram of a biobed and of an early construction of a biobed.]

…and then into the next biobed and then in the treated tank, a drip irrigation line, gravel biomix and and that's about it.

[A tractor lifts soil into a new biobed box as a person helps guide the soil.]

The technology was first, I guess, pioneered in Sweden and there are a number of these biobeds in use in various European countries.

[A close-up view of two biobeds.]

About 15 years ago, we started to adapt these biobeds to Canadian conditions.

[A large biobed situated in a field and another biobed in its early construction, with a man adding a heating coil.]

And so one of the modifications to the original design has been the addition of a heating coil inside of the unit.

So it takes a couple of days to set this kind of thing up.

The one that we set up in Harrington is a three by three metre square footprint…

[A group of three people stand in the constructed base and frame of a biobed. Cut to them constructing more of the biobed by adding the walls.]

…and its about one meter high and its filled with a substrate that is a mix of field soil, woodchips or straw and then peat…

[Cut to the them adding and shoveling soil mixture into the biobeds.]

…and it has a drip irrigation line that's laid over it and the pesticide rinsate trickles through the substrate.

[Close-up of two biobeds.]

How does it remove the pesticide?

[A schematic diagram of a biobed.]

It's the chemical nature of pesticides in not being particularly water soluble in mobile and water, and they tend to stick to organic matter.

Then you have these microorganisms that are living on the substrate and can essentially feed on or, we call, metabolize the pesticide that has been caused.

How long does it last?

[A person uses a drill as they build a wooden box and helps a colleague place a black cover over the soil mixture in a biobed.]

You know, wooden boxes, the pumps, you know, they don't wear out in a long time.

As for the substrate, there's still some ongoing research on at one point it becomes less effective.

It lasts at least ten years…

[Two biobeds situated next to a large tank.]

…and at that point you might have to replace the mixture and compost it somewhere.

And so once you build it, you really don't have to worry about it.

You just have to, you know fill your tanks and make sure its powered on and you have healthier aquatic ecosystems as a result.

[An aerial view of a creek between two fields.]

So that's the value to the environment, the value to the growers is that it gives them a way to increase the sustainability of their operation because…

[A person digs a hole in the soil mixture as they stand in a biobed.]

…it is challenging to grow food sustainably.

There are narrow profit margins and in order to be sustainable you need simple tools that can make a big impact.

[A close-up view of the top of a biobed.]

We have a number of biobeds at AAFC Research Centres and on our website there's a list of those sites, including contact information of the researchers that are in charge and that would be happy to give you more information, maybe set up a time to have a look at the system.

Text on screen: Learn more at:

[Upbeat music ends]

Text on screen: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada


Biobeds locations across Canada

Summerland Research and Development Centre
Summerland, BC
Kirsten Hannam

Lethbridge Research and Development Centre
Lethbridge, AB
Caitlin Watt

Canada – Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre 
Outlook, SK
Barry Vestre

Frelishburg Research Farm
Brome-Missisquoi, QC
Eric Courchesne

Harrington Research Farm
Harrington, PEI
Scott Anderson

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada – Truro Regional Office
Bible Hill, NS
Dr. Erin Smith

St. John's Research and Development Centre 
St. John's, NL
Tobias Laengle