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Research Project: Enhancing Environmental Quality and Ecosystem Services in Southeastern U.S. Coastal Plain Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Southeast Watershed Research

Title: Element losses from fields in conventional and conservation tillage in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Georgia, United States

Author
item Pisani, Oliva
item Liebert, Daniel - Dan
item Bosch, David - Dave
item Coffin, Alisa
item Endale, Dinku
item POTTER, THOMAS - Retired ARS Employee
item Strickland, Timothy - Tim

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/20/2019
Publication Date: 5/13/2020
Citation: Pisani, O., Liebert, D.P., Bosch, D.D., Coffin, A.W., Endale, D.M., Potter, T., Strickland, T.C. 2020. Element losses from fields in conventional and conservation tillage in the Atlantic Coastal Plain, Georgia, United States. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 75(3). https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.75.3.376.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.75.3.376

Interpretive Summary: Elements in cropland soils are essential for crop nutrition. Losses from croplands can negatively impact soil fertility and water quality. Strip tillage (ST) is a conservation practice that can increase subsurface nutrient loadings, soil carbon and nitrogen accretion, soil microbial biomass nitrogen, and reduce sediment runoff in the southeastern Coastal Plain region of Georgia. Here, we evaluated tillage impacts on element concentrations and loads in surface runoff and subsurface flow from a rotational cotton and peanut production system with winter cover crops. Tillage treatments were ST and conventional tillage (CT). The impact of poultry litter and gypsum soil amendments on element losses was also evaluated. Total elements (Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, S, Si, and Zn) in surface runoff and subsurface flow samples were measured using Inductively Coupled Plasma with Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES). Greater surface runoff loads for all elements (with the exception of K and Zn) were observed with CT compared to ST management only in 2006, likely due to greater runoff volumes with the CT practice. Surface runoff was the primary hydrologic pathway for Fe, K, Mn, P, Si, and Zn loss while subsurface flow was the primary hydrologic pathway for Ca, Mg, and S loss with both tillage treatments. Lower concentrations of Ca, Mg, Na, and S in the subsurface flow with ST compared to CT suggest that this tillage practice, in conjunction with the proper timing of fertilizer and soil amendment applications can help reduce element losses from sandy soils of the southeastern Coastal Plain region.

Technical Abstract: The elemental composition of soil plays an essential role in crop nutrition, but losses from croplands can negatively impact soil fertility and water quality. We compare the impact of strip tillage (ST) and conventional tillage (CT) on element concentrations and loads in surface runoff and subsurface flow from plots under rotational cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) production with winter cover cropping. Total elements (Ca, Fe, K, Mg, Mn, Na, P, S, Si, and Zn) in surface runoff and subsurface flow samples were measured using Inductively Coupled Plasma with Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES). Significantly greater (p = 0.05) surface runoff loads for all elements (with the exception of K and Zn) were observed from the CT compared to the ST treatment plots only in 2006, likely due to greater runoff volumes with the CT practice. Surface runoff was the primary hydrologic pathway for Fe, K, Mn, P, Si, and Zn loss while subsurface flow was the primary hydrologic pathway for Ca, Mg, and S loss with both tillage treatments. Lower concentrations of Ca, Mg, Na, and S in the subsurface flow with ST compared to CT suggest that this tillage practice, in conjunction with the proper timing of fertilizer and soil amendment applications (e.g., poultry litter, gypsum) can be an effective method for reducing element losses from croplands.