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Book: Managing Nitrogen for Groundwater Quality and Farm Profitability
Published by: Soil Science Society of America



  1.  p. i-xix
    Managing Nitrogen for Groundwater Quality and Farm Profitability

    R. F. Follett, D. R. Keeney and R. M. Cruse (ed.)

    ISBN: 978-0-89118-877-3

    unlockOPEN ACCESS

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Front Matter


The very essence of agriculture is based on the capture of radiant (solar) energy and the stocks and flows of nutrients. Among the biogeochemical cycles governing agricultural productivity is the N cycle with its attendant pathways that can “leak” N forms to groundwater as well as to the atmosphere. Nitrogen ranks at or among the top of the agricultural crop production resource inputs based on both economics and thermodynamic energy equivalents. This production-governing resource coupled with its propensity to leak beyond the rooting zone under certain conditions requires management practices and protocols that will address the economics of its use as well as the potential for environmental and human health impacts. This volume makes a state-of-the-art assessment of the N cycle as applied to agriculture and presents N management strategies for minimizing leakages from production systems in the interest of maximizing N-use efficiency and minimizing environmental impacts, particularly on groundwater quality.

F. P Miller, president

Soil Science Society of America


High-quality drinking water is one of the most important, and possibly most valuable, natural resources. Maintaining this resource for present and future generations is a responsibility of all citizens. Identifying, directing, or conducting appropriate social and technological activities for minimizing drinking water degradation is a challenge that scientific, social, and political leaders must meet.

Groundwater is the drinking water source for approximately one-half of U.S. citizens and is the primary source of drinking water in many rural areas (CAST, 1985). This resource results from decades and even centuries of geologic and hydrologic activity. Degradation of groundwater would have major negative impacts on this, as well as future, generations.

Groundwater quality is on an accelerated decline in many places. Agricultural activities are increasingly being held responsible for contributing nitrate (NO3) to groundwater, although groundwater NO3 may originate from many sources. This dedine has occurred concurrently with increased N use. The dilemma facing the agricultural industry and society is that crop production and agricultural economics are favorably affected by N fertilization, while groundwater quality may not be. Modern technologies, such as N fertilizers have allowed increased production per unit of cultivated land and thus have allowed poorer or more fragile land, that may be especially susceptible to wind and water erosion, to be removed from cultivation and placed under permanent cover. If U.S. farmers were still harvesting the same annual yields per acre in the 1980 to 1985 period that they did in 1938 to 1940, much more land would need to be cultivated to produce the same volume of agricultural crops produced now. Much of this additional land, if cultivated, would seriously affect other environmental problems (Barrons, 1988).

The task facing industry, producers, agricultural advisors, and others who are concerned about the environment is to develop efficient N-management systems that maintain economical production levels while minimizing groundwater degradation.

The goal of this book is to present current “state-of-the-art” information and its application to assist managers, producers, agricultural advisors, and others in making appropriate N-management decisions. Guidelines and management principles to minimize NO3-N leaching while optimizing the economics for N-fertilization, water, and cropping system management alternatives are provided. Because of the scope of this book, the guidelines and principles presented are fairly general. Where possible, users of these procedures are encouraged to utilize their own local or site-specific data, rather than the more general “default” data provided, to increase the applicability of these procedures for local conditions.

Chapter 12 describes procedures to screen for potentially leachable NO3-N. Chapter 13 describes the computer software for Nitrate Leaching and Economic Analysis Package (NLEAP) that was developed to implement theories, methods, and equations and to assist with N-management decisions that are described in Chapter 13 and the other chapters of this book.

This book and accompanying computer software are unique tools that should help users to economically and environmentally evaluate various aspects of N-management programs for individual farms. However, users of either this book or the NLEAP model need to be aware of the following disclaimer:

The user assumes all risks and responsibilities for the use of the material in this book and application of the NLEAP model and the interpretation of the results there from obtained. The authors, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and affilitated institutions, and the Soil Science Society of America (as publisher) are not liable to users for any damages, including: lost profits, lost savings, actions by regulatory agencies, or any other incidental or consequential damages occurring from the use or inability to use the material in this book or the NLEAP model, their results, or their documentation for any purpose.

Ronald F. Follett, co-editor


Fort Collins, Colorado

Richard M. Cruse, co-editor

Dep. of Agronomy

Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa

Dennis R. Keeney, co-editor

Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa


P. N. S. Bartling, Range Scientist, USDA-ARS, Crops Research Lab., 1701 Center Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80526

B. R. Bock, Senior Project Leader, Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, AL 35660-1010

M. K. Brodahl, Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Crops Research Lab., 1701 Center Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80526

D. K. Cassel, Professor of Soil Science, Department of Soil Science, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7619

R. M. Cruse, Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011

Donna A. Fletcher, Formerly Senior Analyst, Office of Ground-Water Protection. Currently, Director, State and Local Programs Committee, National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, Office cf the Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 401 M Street NW, A 101 F-6, Washington, DC 20460

R. F. Follett, Research Leader, USDA-ARS, Federal Building, 351 S. Howes, P.O. Box E, Fort Collins, CO 80522

James R. Gilley, Formerly Professor of Agricultural Engineering, University of Nebraska. Currently Professor and Head, Davidson Hall, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50010

A. D. Halvorson, Supervisory Soil Scientist/Research Leader, USDA-ARS, P.O. Box 400, Akron, CO 80720

G. W. Hergert, Professor of Agronomy and Soils, University of Nebraska, Route 4, Box 46A, North Platte, NE 69101

D. R. Keeney, Professor of Agronomy and Director of Leopold Center, Leopold Center, 126 Soil Tilth Building, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011

D. E. Kissel, Professor and Head, Department of Agronomy, 3111 Plant Sciences Building, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

Ellis G. Knox, National Leader, Soil Survey Investigations, USDA-SCS, National Soil Survey Center, Federal Building, Room 152, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, NE 68508

R. R. Lowrance, Ecologist, USDA-ARS, Southeast Watershed Research, P.O. Box 946, Tifton, GA 31793

Derrel L. Martin, Associate Professor, Biological Systems Engineering Department, Room 231 Chase Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0726

J. J. Meisinger, Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, BARC-West, Building 008, Room 5, Beltsville, MD 20705

David W. Moody, Assistant Chief Hydrologist for Water Assessment and Data Coordination, U.S. Geological Survey, 407 National Center, Reston, VA 22092

A. R. Mosier, Research Chemist, USDA-ARS, 301 South Howes, P.O. Box E, Fort Collins, CO 80522

G. A. Peterson, Professor of Agronomy, Department of Agronomy, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523

F. J. Pierce, Associate Professor, Crop and Soil Sciences Department, 564 Plant and Soil Sciences Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824

H. B. Pionke, Research Leader, USDA-ARS, 110 Research Building A, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802

J. F. Power, Research Leader, USDA-ARS-NPA, 119 Keim Hall, East Campus, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0915

G. W. Randall, Soil Scientist and Professor, Southern Experiment Station, University of Minnesota, Waseca, MN 56093

J. S. Schepers, Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, 113 Keim Hall, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68583-0915

M. J. Shaffer, Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Crops Research Lab., 1701 Center Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80526

F. J. Sikora, Research Soil Chemist, Tennessee Valley Authority, Muscle Shoals, AL 35660-1010

R. Wayne Skaggs, W.N. Reynolds Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineers, North Carolina State University, Box 7625, Raleigh, NC 27695-7625

S. J. Smith, Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS, Water Quality and Watershed Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 1430, Durant, OK 74702

J. R. Williams, Research Hydraulic Engineer, USDA-ARS, Grassland, Soil and Water Research Laboratory, 808 East Blackland Road, Temple, TX 76502




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