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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract -

Influence of Controlled Drainage-Subirrigation on Surface and Tile Drainage Nitrate Loss


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 25 No. 2, p. 317-324
    Received: Jan 27, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): druryc@em.agr.ca
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  1. C. F. Drury *,
  2. C. S. Tan,
  3. J. D. Gaynor,
  4. T. O. Oloya and
  5. T. W. Welacky
  1. Harrow Research Centre, Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Harrow, ON, Canada N0R 1G0.



Controlled drainage-subirrigation (CDS), conservation tillage, and corn (Zea mays L.) production practices were evaluated as methods of reducing NO3 loss through tile drainage. Controlled drainage-subirrigation was used to manage water from precipitation and subirrigation. Samples of tile drainage (5801) and surface runoff (3274) water were collected with autosamplers during each runoff event over a 3-yr period. Annual tile drainage volumes were reduced 24% with CDS compared with the drainage (DR) treatments. Flow weighted mean NO3 concentration of tile drainage water was reduced 25% from 10.6 mg N L−1 for the DR treatments to 7.9 mg N L−1 for the CDS treatments. The average annual NO3 loss was reduced 43% from 25.8 kg N ha−1 for the DR treatment to 14.6 kg N ha−1 for the CDS treatments. Eighty-eight to 95% of the NO−3 losses from all treatments occurred in the noncrop period (1 Nov.–31 Apr.). Conservation tillage in combination with CDS reduced annual NO3 losses 49% (11.6 kg N ha−1) when compared with the conventional moldboard plow tillage and DR treatment. Annual NO3 loss through surface runoff was increased to 1.9 kg N ha−1 with the CDS treatments compared with 1.4 kg N ha−1 with the DR treatment, this loss was minor compared with losses incurred through tile drainage. Controlled drainage-subirrigation is a technological advancement in soil and water management as it enables farmers to minimize the effect of dry summers on crop growth and reduce NO3 contamination of drainage water.

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