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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: CONSERVATION EFFECTS ASSESSMENT FOR THE ST. JOSEPH RIVER WATERSHED

Location: National Soil Erosion Research Lab

Title: Effect of Tile Effluent on Nutrient Concentration and Retention Efficiency in Agricultural Drainage Ditches

Authors
item Ahiablame, Laourent -
item Chaubey, Indrajeet -
item SMITH, DOUGLAS
item Engel, Bernard -

Submitted to: Agricultural Water Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 9, 2011
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Tile drainage is a common water management practice in many agricultural landscapes in the Midwestern United States. Drainage ditches regularly receive water from agricultural fields through these tile drains. This field-scale study was conducted to determine the impact of tile discharge on ambient nutrient concentration, nutrient retention and transport in drainage ditches. Grab water samples were collected during three flow regimes for determination of soluble phosphorus (SP), ammonium nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen concentrations and their retention in three drainage ditches. Measured nutrient concentration indicated lower soluble phosphorus and ammonium nitrogen, and greater nitrate nitrogen concentrations in tile effluents compared to the ditch water. There was very little removal of nutrients from the water by sediments, especially for nitrate nitrogen, indicating that nutrients were generally not assimilated efficiently in these drainage systems. The drainage ditches appeared to be nutrient-rich streams that could potentially influence the quality of downstream waters.

Technical Abstract: Tile drainage is a common water management practice in many agricultural landscapes in the Midwestern United States. Drainage ditches regularly receive water from agricultural fields through these tile drains. This field-scale study was conducted to determine the impact of tile discharge on ambient nutrient concentration, nutrient retention and transport in drainage ditches. Grab water samples were collected during three flow regimes for determination of soluble phosphorus (SP), ammonium nitrogen (NH4+-N), nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations and their retention in three drainage ditches. Measured nutrient concentration indicated lower SP and NH4+-N, and greater NO3-N concentrations in tile effluents compared to the ditch water. Net uptake lengths were relatively long, especially for NO3-N,indicating that nutrients were generally not assimilated efficiently in these drainage systems. Results also indicated that the study reaches were very dynamic showing alternating increases or decreases in nutrient concentration across the flow regimes. The drainage ditches appeared to be nutrient-rich streams that could potentially influence the quality of downstream waters.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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