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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Agricultural Drainage Ditches Mitigate Phosphorus Loads as a Function of Hydrological Variability


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 37 No. 1, p. 107-113
    Received: Nov 20, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): kroger@olemiss.edu
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  1. R. Kröger *a,
  2. M. M. Hollanda,
  3. M. T. Mooreb and
  4. C. M. Cooperb
  1. a University of Mississippi Field Station and Center for Water and Wetland Resources, 15 CR 2078, Abbeville MS 38601
    b USDA-ARS, National Sedimentation Lab., Oxford, MS 38655


Phosphorus (P) loading from nonpoint sources, such as agricultural landscapes, contributes to downstream aquatic ecosystem degradation. Specifically, within the Mississippi watershed, enriched runoff contributions have far-reaching consequences for coastal water eutrophication and Gulf of Mexico hypoxia. Through storm events, the P mitigation capacity of agricultural drainage ditches under no-till cotton was determined for natural and variable rainfall conditions in north Mississippi. Over 2 yr, two experimental ditches were sampled monthly for total inorganic P concentrations in baseflow and on an event-driven basis for stormflows. Phosphorus concentrations, Manning's equations with a range of roughness coefficients for changes in vegetative densities within the ditches, and discharge volumes from Natural Resources Conservation Service dimensionless hydrographs combined to determine ranges in maximum and outflow storm P loads from the farms. Baseflow regressions and percentage reductions with P concentrations illustrated that the ditches alternated between being a sink and source for dissolved inorganic P and particulate P concentrations throughout the year. Storm event loads resulted in 5.5% of the annual applied fertilizer to be transported into the drainage ditches. The ditches annually reduced 43.92 ± 3.12% of the maximum inorganic effluent P load before receiving waters. Agricultural drainage ditches exhibited a fair potential for P mitigation and thus warrant future work on controlled drainage to improve mitigation capacity.

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