JEP  Vol.5 No.4 , March 2014
Long-Term Drainage and Nitrate Leaching below Well-Drained Continuous Corn Agroecosystems and a Prairie
Abstract: Many studies have evaluated nitrate-N leaching from tile-drained agricultural soils, but little longterm research has been performed on well-drained soils commonly throughout the Midwest. Equilibrium tension lysimeters installed at a depth of 1.4 m were used to measure year-round (12 month) nitrate-N leaching below chisel-plow (CP) and no-tillage (NT) continuous corn (Zea mays L.) agroecosystems to determine the potential effects of common agricultural practices on subsurface water quality. The corn systems were fertilized at a rate of 10 kg N ha-1 of starter fertilizer and 180 kg N ha-1 as NH4NO3. For comparison, nitrate-N leaching from a natural ecosystem was performed on a nearby prairie restoration (PR). Drainage, nitrate-N leaching loss, and flow-weighted mean nitrate-N concentrations for 8 years of data (1996-2003) are reported for the CP, NT and PR ecosystems. Results show that 52%, 37%, 16% of cumulative precipitation was collected as drainage, while 18%, 19%, 0.5% of the total N input was leached as nitrate-N in the CP, NT, and PR, respectively. Nearly three-quarters of the total nitrate-N was leached from each ecosystem during the period from 1 April to 30 June. The 8-yr, flow-weighted mean nitrate-N concentration measured in leachate was 9.5, 12.2 and <0.1 mg L-1 for the CP, NT and PR treatments. Annual drainage volumes and nitrate-N leaching losses were highly variable, stressing the importance of long-term studies capable of measuring year-round drainage for understanding N leaching dynamics and evaluating effects of cropping practices on potential groundwater quality.
Cite this paper: Masarik, K. , Norman, J. and Brye, K. (2014) Long-Term Drainage and Nitrate Leaching below Well-Drained Continuous Corn Agroecosystems and a Prairie. Journal of Environmental Protection, 5, 240-254. doi: 10.4236/jep.2014.54028.

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