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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: REDUCING NITRATE LOSSES FROM AGRICULTURAL FIELDS WITH SUBSURFACE DRAINAGE Title: Understanding Nutrient Fate and Transport, Including the Importance of Hydrology in Determining Field Losses, and Potential Implications on Management Systems to Reduce Those Losses

Authors
item Baker, James - IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY
item David, Mark - UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS
item Lemke, Dean - IA DEPT. OF AG & LAND
item Jaynes, Dan

Submitted to: Symposium Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 31, 2007
Publication Date: April 1, 2008
Citation: Baker, J.L., David, M.B., Lemke, D.W., Jaynes, D.B. 2008. Understanding Nutrient Fate and Transport, Including the Importance of Hydrology in Determining Field Losses, and Potential Implications on Management Systems to Reduce Those Losses. In: Final Report: Gulf Hypoxia and Local Water Quality Concerns Workshop. p. 1-17.

Interpretive Summary: Losses of the major nutrients, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), from agricultural fields to water resources cause water quality concerns relative to the health of both humans and aquatic systems, and restrict the full use of these water resources. Understanding nutrient fate and transport in agricultural systems is critical in designing and implementing the correct practices/systems to effectively reduce nutrient losses. However, it is equally as important, to use that understanding to not promote wrong practices. In this paper, we introduce the concept of soil hydrology and present an overview of how soil hydrologic processes coupled with soil characteristics and the chemical form of nutrients affect the fate and transport of nutrients in agricultural systems. We discuss how rainfall is partitioned at the soil surface into infiltration and surface runoff. We describe how runoff water mixes with nutrients in the surface soil and how soil and nutrient properties determine nutrient concentrations in surface runoff. We then briefly describe how these processes affect the fate and transport of nutrients in two landscapes common to the Corn Belt, a nearly flat, tile-drained area and a rolling landscape with well-developed surface drainage, and how the appropriate management practices/systems chosen for each must be tailored to the transport processes unique to each landscape. These descriptions serve as an introduction to the detailed discussions on specific management practices that will be presented at this symposium. This paper will benefit action agency personnel trying to identify and prioritize effective agricultural management practices for controlling nutrient contamination of water resource.

Technical Abstract: Losses of the major nutrients, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), from agricultural fields to water resources cause water quality concerns relative to the health of both humans and aquatic systems, and restrict the full use of these water resources. Understanding nutrient fate and transport in agricultural systems is critical in designing and implementing the correct practices/systems to effectively reduce nutrient losses. However, it is equally as important, to use that understanding to not promote wrong practices. In this paper, we introduce the concept of soil hydrology and present an overview of how soil hydrologic processes coupled with soil characteristics and the chemical form of nutrients affect the fate and transport of nutrients in agricultural systems. We discuss how rainfall is partitioned at the soil surface into infiltration and surface runoff. We describe how runoff water mixes with nutrients in the surface soil and how soil and nutrient properties determine nutrient concentrations in surface runoff. We then briefly describe how these processes affect the fate and transport of nutrients in two landscapes common to the Corn Belt, a nearly flat, tile-drained area and a rolling landscape with well-developed surface drainage, and how the appropriate management practices/systems chosen for each must be tailored to the transport processes unique to each landscape. These descriptions serve as an introduction to the detailed discussions on specific management practices that will be presented at this symposium.

Last Modified: 7/22/2014
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