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Title: Development of field-scale lysimeters to assess management impacts on runoff

item DUNCAN, EMILY - Pennsylvania State University
item Kleinman, Peter
item Folmar, Gordon
item Saporito, Louis - Lou
item Feyereisen, Gary
item Buda, Anthony
item VITKO, LAUREN - Pennsylvania State University
item COLLICK, AMY - University Of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES)
item DROHAN, PATRICK - Pennsylvania State University
item LIN, HENRY - Pennsylvania State University
item Bryant, Ray
item BEEGLE, DOUGLAS - Pennsylvania State University

Submitted to: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/1/2016
Publication Date: 3/1/2017
Citation: Duncan, E., Kleinman, P.J., Folmar, G.J., Saporito, L.S., Feyereisen, G.W., Buda, A.R., Vitko, L., Collick, A., Drohan, P., Lin, H., Bryant, R.B., Beegle, D. 2017. Development of field-scale lysimeters to assess management impacts on runoff. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 60:419-429.

Interpretive Summary: Documenting how agriculture impacts the environment can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding how nitrogen, a critical fertilizer element, escapes from agricultural fields through water and air emissions. Often, small plots are used to draw these inferences, but they can introduce bias due to their limited size. We designed field scale sampling devices, called lysimeters, that allow for the use of full sized farm equipment. Research from these lysimeters will inform efforts to improve fertilizer use efficiency and to reduce nitrogen loads to the Chesapeake Bay.

Technical Abstract: Most empirical studies on the impact of field management on runoff water quality rely on edge-of-field monitoring, which is generally unreplicated and prone to high variances, or small plots, which constrain the use of conventional farm equipment and can hinder insight into landscape processes driving hydrology and nutrient losses in runoff. We sought to develop field-scale lysimeters that were sufficiently large to support the assessment of landscape processes but also replicated so as to allow for quantitative comparisons of hydrologic processes. A hillslope underlain by limestone bedrock with a recent history of hydrologic observation was selected for the study in central Pennsylvania, USA. Twelve, 15 x 27 m plots were established, defined by earthen berms on all sides to isolate and collect overland flow, along with tile drains to collect shallow lateral flow. Over three years, considerable variability in site hydrology was observed between lysimeters, highlighting differences in the extent of hydrologic isolation of some lysimeters as well as in flows that potentially bypassed our collection infrastructure. Even so, clear patterns were observed in surface and subsurface flow that enabled grouping of plots based upon hydrologic similarities. Results illustrate the experimental opportunities and limitations of developing field scale lysimeters for agronomic inference.