Impacts of Soil Phosphorus Drawdown on Snowmelt and Rainfall Runoff Water Quality

Jian Liu, J. M. Elliott, Henry F. Wilson, Helen M. Baulch

Managing P export from agricultural land is critical to address freshwater eutrophication. However, soil P management, and options to draw down soil P have received little attention in snowmelt-dominated regions because of limited interaction between soil and snowmelt. Here, we assessed the impacts of soil P drawdown (reducing fertilizer P inputs combined with harvest removal) on soil Olsen P dynamics, runoff P concentrations, and crop yields from 1997 to 2014 in paired fields in Manitoba, Canada. We observed that Olsen P concentrations in the 0- to 5-cm soil layer were negatively correlated with the cumulative P depletion and declined rapidly at the onset of the drawdown practice (3.1 to 5.4 mg kg yr during 2007-2010). In both snowmelt runoff and rainfall runoff, concentrations of total dissolved P (TDP) were positively correlated with the concentrations of soil Olsen P. Soil P drawdown to low to moderate fertility levels significantly decreased mean annual flow-weighted TDP concentrations in snowmelt runoff from 0.60 to 0.30 mg L in the field with high initial soil P and from 1.17 to 0.42 mg L in the field with very high initial soil P. Declines in TDP concentration in rainfall runoff were greater. Critically, yields of wheat ( spp.) and canola ( L.) were not affected by soil P depletion. In conclusion, we demonstrate that relatively rapid reductions in P loads are achievable at the field scale via managing P inputs and soil P pools, highlighting a management opportunity that can maintain food security while improving water security in cold regions.
Jian Liu, J. M. Elliott, Henry F. Wilson, and Helen M. Baulch. 2019. Impacts of Soil Phosphorus Drawdown on Snowmelt and Rainfall Runoff Water Quality. Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4, 48(4):803–812.
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