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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - GROUND WATER QUALITY

Nitrogen and Carbon Leaching in Agroecosystems and Their Role in Denitrification Potential


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 1, p. 58-70
    Received: Mar 6, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): krbrye@students.wisc.edu
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  1. K.R. Brye *,
  2. J.M. Norman,
  3. L.G. Bundy and
  4. S.T. Gower
  1. Dep. of Forest Ecology and Management, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, 1630 Linden Dr., Madison, WI 53706-1598


The drainage of water and leaching of dissolved constituents represent major components of agroecosystem mass budgets that have been exceedingly difficult to measure. Equilibrium-tension lysimeters (ETLs) were used to monitor drainage, nitrogen (N), and carbon (C) leaching through Plano silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Typic Argiudoll) for a 4-yr period in a restored prairie and N-fertilized no-tillage and chisel-plowed maize (Zea mays L.) agroecosystems. Mean drainage recorded during 4 yr for the prairie, no-tillage, and chisel-plowed ecosystems totaled 461, 1116, and 1575 mm and represented 16, 33, and 47% of precipitation plus melting of drifted snow received, respectively. Total inorganic N leaching losses during the 4-yr period for the prairie, no-tillage, and chisel-plowed ecosystems were 0.6, 201, and 179 kg N ha−1, respectively. Inorganic N leaching represented 26 and 24% of applied fertilizer N additions to the no-tillage and chisel-plowed agroecosystems. Total dissolved C leaching losses were 119, 435, and 502 kg C ha−1 for the prairie, no-tillage, and chisel-plowed ecosystems, respectively. Sufficient dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrate N (NO 3–N) existed in the prairie and agroecosystems to support subsoil denitrification. Potential denitrification, however, was limited by insufficient lengths of saturated soil conditions in all three ecosystems, the supply of DOC in the agroecosystems, and the supply of nitrate N in the prairie. Based on available DOC and nitrate N, the maximum contribution of denitrification below the root zone in the agroecosystems was less than 25% of the total amount of leached nitrate N and the probable contribution of denitrification was much less.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:58–70.