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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Nitrogen and Phosphorus Runoff Losses from Variable and Constant Intensity Rainfall Simulations on Loamy Sand under Conventional and Strip Tillage Systems


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 36 No. 3, p. 846-854
    Received: Sept 18, 2005

    * Corresponding author(s): dfrankln@uga.edu
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  1. D. Franklin *a,
  2. C. Trumanb,
  3. T. Potterb,
  4. D. Boschb,
  5. T. Stricklandb and
  6. C. Bednarzc
  1. a USDA-ARS, J. Phil Campbell, Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center, Watkinsville, GA 30677
    b USDA-ARS, Southeast Watershed Research Lab., Tifton, GA 31793
    c Univ. of Georgia, Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, GA 31793


Further studies on the quality of runoff from tillage and cropping systems in the southeastern USA are needed to refine current risk assessment tools for nutrient contamination. Our objective was to quantify and compare effects of constant (Ic) and variable (Iv) rainfall intensity patterns on inorganic nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) losses from a Tifton loamy sand (Plinthic Kandiudult) cropped to cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) and managed under conventional (CT) or strip-till (ST) systems. We simulated rainfall at a constant intensity and a variable intensity pattern (57 mm h−1) and collected runoff continuously at 5-min intervals for 70 min. For cumulative runoff at 50 min, the Iv pattern lost significantly greater amounts (p < 0.05) of total Kjeldahl N (TKN) and P (TKP) (849 g N ha−1 and 266 g P ha−1 for Iv; 623 g N ha−1 and 192 g P ha−1 for Ic) than did the Ic pattern. However, at 70 min, no significant differences in total losses were evident for TKN or TKP from either rainfall intensity pattern. In contrast, total cumulative losses of dissolved reactive P (DRP) and NO3–N were greatest for ST-Ic, followed by ST-Iv, CT-Ic, and CT-Iv in diminishing order (69 g DRP ha−1 and 361 g NO3–N ha−1; 37 g DRP ha−1 and 133 g NO3–N ha−1; 3 g DRP ha−1 and 58 g NO3–N ha−1; 1 g DRP ha−1 and 49 g NO3–N ha−1). Results indicate that constant-rate rainfall simulations may overestimate the amount of dissolved nutrients lost to the environment in overland flow from cropping systems in loamy sand soils. We also found that CT treatments lost significantly greater amounts of TKN and TKP than ST treatments and in contrast, ST treatments lost significantly greater amounts of DRP and NO3–N than CT treatments. These results indicate that ST systems may be losing more soluble fractions than CT systems, but only a fraction the total N (33%) and total P (11%) lost through overland flow from CT systems.

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