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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 25 No. 4, p. 709-719
    Received: Jan 17, 1995

    * Corresponding author(s): coyote@postville.polaristel.net
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Nitrate and Water Present in and Flowing from Root-Zone Soil

  1. D. A. J. Weed * and
  2. R. S. Kanwar
  1. Weed Engineering, P.O. Box 370, Postville, IA 52162;
    Dep. of Agric. and Biosystems Eng., Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50011.



From 1990 through 1992, we studied water and nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) present in the soil and flowing into a subsurface drainage system. Tillages were chisel plow (CP), moldboard plow (MB), no-till (NT), and ridge-till (RT). Crops were continuous corn (Zea mays L.) and a corn-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation. Tillage and crop only slightly influenced soil NO3-N and water. Drainage water flows were highest for treatments that minimized soil disturbance and maximized crop residues produced during the previous year. The 3-yr total flows by crop were 38 cm water for rotation-corn plots, 56 for rotation soybean, and 59 for continuous corn. Flows by tillage were 41 cm water for MB plots, 52 for RT, and 55 for both CP and NT. In continuous corn, NT plots had more monthly water drainage than MB plots for most of 1990. Ridge-till and CP plots had more drainage than MB plots for part of 1991. Crop rotation had the greatest effect on NO3-N drainage loss. The 3-yr total NO3-N losses were 77 kg ha−1 for rotation corn plots, 84 for rotation soybean, and 164 for continuous corn. Tillage losses were 95 kg ha−1 for RT, 102 for MB, 106 for NT, and 131 for CP. No-till and RT plots always had the lowest NO3-N concentrations in drainage water; their yearly NO3-N losses were usually smallest. Leaching can be best minimized by applying fertilizer in amounts to just meet crop N demand and at times closest to peak uptake.

Journal Paper no. J-15138 of the Iowa Agric. and Home Economics Exp. Stn., Ames, IA 50011. Project no. 3003. This research was funded by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Ames, IA, and the CSRS-USDA Project on Management Systems Evaluation Areas (MSEA). Work was done at Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA 50011.

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