Nutrient and sediment losses in snowmelt runoff from perennial forage and annual cropland in the canadian prairies.

Liu, K., Elliott, J.A., Lobb, D.A., Flaten, D.N., and Yarotski, J.B. (2014). "Nutrient and sediment losses in snowmelt runoff from perennial forage and annual cropland in the canadian prairies.", Journal of Environmental Quality, 43(5), pp. 1644-1655. doi : 10.2134/jeq2014.01.0040  Access to full text

Abstract

An 8-yr field-scale study, 2005 to 2012, investigated effects of agricultural land use on nutrient and sediment losses during snowmelt runoff from four treatment fields in southern Manitoba. In 2005, two fields with a long-term history of annual crop (AC) production were planted to perennial forage (PF), while two other fields were left in AC production. In 2009, the AC fields were converted to PF, while the PF fields were returned to AC. Runoff flow rates were monitored at the lower edge of the fields, and nutrient concentrations of runoff water were determined. The effects of AC and PF on selected variables were similar for the spatial (between-fields) and temporal (within-field) comparisons. The flow-weighted mean concentrations (FWMCs) and loads of particulate N, P, and sediment were not affected by treatment. Soil test N and the FWMC and load of NO<sub>xsub> (NO3 + NO2) were significantly greater in the AC treatment, but the FWMC and load of NH3 were greater in the PF treatment. Loads of total dissolved N (TDN) and total N (TN) were not affected by treatment, although the concentrations of TDN and TN were greater in the AC treatment. The PF treatment significantly increased FWMCs and loads of total dissolved P (TDP) and total P (TP). On an annual snowmelt runoff basis, the PF treatment increased the FWMC of TDP by 53% and TP by 52% and increased the load of TDP by 221% and TP by 160% compared with the AC treatment. The greater P and NH3 losses in the PF treatment were attributed mainly to nutrient release from forage residue due to freezing.

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