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Title: Irrigation Water and Nitrate Loss Characterization in South Florida Nurseries: Cumulative Volumes, Runoff Rates, NO3-N Concentrations and Loadings, and Implications for Management

Author
item Wilson, Chris - University Of Florida
item Albano, Joseph
item Mozden, Miguel - University Of Florida
item Riiska, Catherine - University Of Florida

Submitted to: HortTechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/2/2009
Publication Date: 4/1/2010
Citation: Wilson, C., Albano, J.P., Mozden, M., Riiska, C. 2010. Irrigation Water and Nitrate Loss Characterization in South Florida Nurseries: Cumulative Volumes, Runoff Rates, NO3-N Concentrations and Loadings, and Implications for Management. HortTechnology. 20:325-330

Interpretive Summary: These results from the study indicate that significant amounts of nitrate-nitrogen can leave nursery production sites in runoff water associated with drip and overhead irrigation/fertigation practices. Likewise, it can be assumed that rainfall events causing drainage through pots and surface runoff from the production areas may result in similar losses. Nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in the majority of the samples collected during the runoff events exceeded the 10 milligrams/liter drinking water limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These high levels indicate a need for remedial action if the drainage water interacts with drinking water sources. In addition, remedial action may also be needed to prevent adverse effects to nitrogen-limited natural water bodies depending on local and state regulations. With regard to the overall project objective of developing a bioremediation system for removing nitrate-nitrogen from plant nurseries surface drainage water, this project provided valuable information regarding expected, realistic loadings and flow rates that must be considered.

Technical Abstract: Enrichment of surface water with nitrate-nitrogen is a significant problem throughout the world. In support of developing a method for removing nitrate from water using denitrification, this project characterized runoff events at two nurseries in South Florida to provide information needed for designing capacity. Specifically, estimates of runoff rates and volumes, and nitrate-nitrogen concentrations and loadings were profiled during intensively-sampled irrigation/fertigation events at a foliage plant nursery and a bedding plant nursery. Discharge volumes and rates varied with event, ranging from 2487 to 20935 liters and 59.2 to 126 liters/minute, respectively, per event. Nitrate concentrations ranged from 0.7-386.4 milligrams nitrate-nitrogen/liter, and event loadings ranged from 51-3024 grams, indicating that significant losses may be realized. This project provided valuable hydraulic and chemical loading information needed for the development and design of bioremediation tools for the horticultural industry.