Estimating nitrate loading from an intensively managed agricultural field to a shallow unconfined aquifer.

Kuipers, P.J., Ryan, M.C., and Zebarth, B.J. (2013). "Estimating nitrate loading from an intensively managed agricultural field to a shallow unconfined aquifer.", Water Quality Research Journal of Canada, 49(1), pp. 10-22. doi : 10.2166/wqrjc.2013.136  Access to full text

Abstract

Nitrate loading from an intensively managed commercial red raspberry field to groundwater in the Abbotsford-Sumas Aquifer, British Columbia was estimated over a 1 yr period and compared with the nitrogen surplus calculated using a simple nitrogen budget. Nitrate loading was estimated as the product of recharge (estimated from climate data as total precipitation minus potential evapotranspiration (PET)) and monthly nitrate concentration measured at the water table. Most nitrate loading occurred when nitrate, accumulated in the root zone over the growing season, was leached following heavy autumn rainfall events. Elevated groundwater nitrate concentrations at the water table during the growing season when recharge was assumed to be negligible suggested that the nitrate loading was underestimated. The estimate of annual nitrate loading to the water table was high (174 kg N ha1) suggesting that the tools currently available to growers to manage N in raspberry production are not adequate to protect groundwater quality. The calculated nitrogen surplus from the nitrogen budget (180 kg N ha1) was similar to the measured nitrate loading suggesting that simple nitrogen budgets may be relatively effective indices of the risk of nitrate loading to groundwater.

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