Nutrient losses from agricultural fields are the largest sources of phosphorus (P) entering the Great Lakes in North America. Stacked conservation practices (CPs) may reduce P losses from individual fields. Simple low-cost, low disturbance, commercially available filters containing wood chips and phosphorus sorbing materials (PSM) were installed on two fields already using conservation practices in midwestern Ontario (ILD and LON) to quantify their ability to remove soluble reactive P (SRP), particulate P (PP), total P (TP) and total suspended sediments (TSS) from surface runoff. Laboratory tests on unused (new) and used (field) filter materials were also conducted to estimate P sorption and remobilization potentials. During the two-year study period, the filter retained 0.018 kg ha-1 of SRP, 0.38 kg ha-1 of PP, 0.4 kg ha-1 of TP and 8.75 kg ha-1 of TSS from surface runoff at the ILD site. In contrast, although the filter at LON removed 37 kg ha-1 of TSS and 0.07 kg ha-1 of PP, it released 0.22 kg ha-1 of SRP and 0.15 kg ha-1 TP. A reduction in filter efficacy was observed over time, particularly at the site with greater cumulative surface runoff and larger runoff events (LON). The majority of the SRP retained by the filter was held in a loosely bound form, thus, susceptible to P remobilization. The results of this study demonstrate that low-cost, simple PSMs have some potential to retain P from surface runoff, but their efficacy may decline over time and their P retention capability may differ with site hydrology (e.g., runoff volumes and velocity) and P supply.
This study is a meta-analysis of global articles on hydrological nutrient dynamics to determine trends and consensus on: (1) the effects of climate change-induced hydrological and temperature drivers on nutrient dynamics and how these effects vary along the catchment continuum from land to river to lake; (2) the convergence of climate change impacts with other anthropogenic pressures (agriculture, urbanization) in nutrient dynamics; and (3) regional variability in the effects of climate change on nutrient dynamics and water-quality impairment across different climate zones. An innovative web crawler tool was employed to help critically synthesize the information in the literature. The literature suggests that climate change will impact nutrient dynamics around the globe and exacerbate contemporary water-quality challenges. Nutrient leaching and overland flow transport are projected to increase globally, promoted by extreme precipitation. Seasonal variations in streamflow are expected to emulate changing precipitation patterns, but the specific local impacts of climate change on hydrology and nutrient dynamics will vary both seasonally and regionally. Plant activity may reduce some of this load in nonagricultural soils if the expected increase in plant uptake of nutrients prompted by increased temperatures can compensate for greater nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) mineralization, N deposition, and leaching rates. High-temperature forest and grass fires may help reduce mineralization and microbial turnover by altering N speciation via the pyrolysis of organic matter. In agricultural areas that are at higher risk of erosion, extreme precipitation will exacerbate existing water-quality issues, and greater plant nutrient uptake may lead to an increase in fertilizer use. Future urban expansion will amplify these effects. Higher ambient temperatures will promote harmful cyanobacterial blooms by enhancing thermal stratification, increasing nutrient load into streams and lakes from extreme precipitation events, decreasing summer flow and thus baseflow dilution capacity, and increasing water and nutrient residence times during increasingly frequent droughts. Land management decisions must consider the nuanced regional and seasonal changes identified in this review (realized and predicted). Such knowledge is critical to increasing international cooperation and accelerating action toward the United Nations’s global sustainability goals and the specific objectives of the Conference of Parties (COP) 26.
Abstract Nutrient and soil loss from agricultural areas impairs surface water quality globally. In the Great Lakes region, increases in the frequency and magnitude of harmful and nuisance algal blooms in freshwater lakes have been linked to elevated phosphorus (P) losses from agricultural fields, some of which are transported via tile drainage. This study examined whether concentrations and loads of P fractions, total suspended sediments (TSS), nitrate (NO 3 − ), and ammonium (NH 4 + ) in tile drainage in a clay soil differed between a continuous no‐till system combining cover crops and surface broadcast fertilizer (no‐till cover crop [NTCC]), and a more conventional tillage system with shallow tillage, fertilizer incorporation and limited use of cover crops (conventional conservation‐till, CT). Both sites had modest soil fertility levels. Year‐round, high‐frequency observations of tile drainage flow and chemistry are described over 4 full water years and related to management practices on the associated fields. There were similar water yields in tile drainage between the two systems; however, losses of TSS, particulate P (PP), and NO 3 − were consistently greater from the CT site, which received larger quantities of fertilizer. In contrast, dissolved reactive P (DRP) losses were considerably greater from the NTCC site, offsetting the lower PP losses, such that there was little difference in TP losses between sites. Approximately 60% of the DRP losses from the NTCC site over the 4 years were associated with incidental losses following surface application of fertilizer in fall. This study provides insight into trade‐offs in controlling losses of different nutrient fractions using different management systems.
Agricultural fields in the Red River Valley of the Northern Great Plains are located on flat clay soils, often drained by shallow, roadside ditches that are not graded and lacking relief. These conditions can result in flow reversals and subsequent flooding of adjacent fields during large runoff events, which can mobilize phosphorus (P). Surface runoff from two agricultural fields and their adjacent ditches was monitored from 2015 to 2017 in southern Manitoba, Canada. Overbank flooding of fields adjacent to ditches was observed in 5 of 21 hydrologic events, and such events dominated annual runoff and P budgets (>83% of losses over the 3-year study period). Flooding events were often dominated by soluble P fractions (57–67%) relative to events where flooding was not observed (39–63%). Concentrations of soluble reactive P in water standing on fields increased with time during flooding events, suggesting that P was mobilized during such events; however, the source of the soluble reactive P is not clear. This study has highlighted temporal differences in hydrologic and biogeochemical interactions between fields and ditches and demonstrated the need for an improved understanding of mechanisms of P mobilization in the landscape, which has direct implications for predicting P mobility in agricultural watersheds.
Abstract. Systematic tile drainage is used extensively in agricultural lands to remove excess water and improve crop growth; however, tiles can also transfer nutrients from farmlands to downstream surface water bodies, leading to water quality problems. There is a need to simulate the hydrological behaviour of tile drains to understand the impacts of climate or land management change on agricultural runoff. The Cold Regions Hydrological Model (CRHM) is a physically based, modular modelling system that enables the creation of comprehensive models appropriate for cold regions by including a full suite of winter, spring, and summer season processes and coupling these together via mass and energy balances. A new tile drainage module was developed for CRHM to account for this process in tile-drained landscapes that are increasingly common in cultivated basins of the Great Lakes and northern Prairies regions of North America. A robust multi-variable, multi-criteria model performance evaluation strategy was deployed to examine the ability of the module with CRHM to capture tile discharge under both winter and summer conditions. Results showed that soil moisture is largely regulated by tile flow and lateral flow from adjacent fields. The explicit representation of capillary rise for moisture interactions between the rooting zone and groundwater greatly improved model simulations, demonstrating its significance in the hydrology of tile drains in loam soils. Water level patterns revealed a bimodal behaviour that depended on the positioning of the capillary fringe relative to the tile. A novel aspect of this module is the use of field capacity and its corresponding pressure head to provide an estimate of drainable water and thickness of the capillary fringe, rather than a detailed soil retention curve that may not always be available. Understanding the bimodal nature of soil water levels provides better insight into the significance of dynamic water exchange between soil layers below drains to improve tile drainage representation in models.
Globally, maize ( Zea mays , a C4-plant) and alfalfa ( Medicago sativa , a C3-plant) are common and economically important crops. Predicting the response of their water use efficiency, WUE , to changing hydrologic and climatic conditions is vital in helping farmers adapt to a changing climate. In this study, we assessed the effective leaf area index ( eLAI - the leaf area most involved in CO 2 and H 2 O exchange) and stomatal conductance in canopy scale in maize and alfalfa fields. In the process we used a theoretically-based photosynthesis C3-C4 model (C3C4PM) and carbon and water vapour fluxes measured by Eddy Covariance towers at our study sites. We found that in our study sites the eLAI was in the range of 25–32% of the observed total LAI in these crops. WUE s were in range of 8–9 mmol/mol. C3C4PM can be used in predictions of stomatal conductance and eLAI responses in C3 and C4 agricultural crops to elevated CO 2 concentration and changes in precipitation and temperature under future climate scenarios. • ~25 (maize) & 32% (alfalfa) of the observed crop LAI was involved in photosynthesis. • Extinction coefficient for beam radiation was 1.08 (maize) and 0.84 (alfalfa). • Canopy stomatal conductance, SC , was ~0.13 (maize) and ~0.15 (alfalfa). • Effective LAI and canopy SC can be evaluated by Eddy Covariance records.
Influence of climate, topography, and soil type on soil extractable phosphorus in croplands of northern glacial‐derived landscapes
Janina M. Plach,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Henry F. Wilson,
David A. Lobb,
Kevin W. King
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 51, Issue 4
Delineating the relative solubility of soil phosphorus (P) in agricultural landscapes is essential to predicting potential P mobilization in the landscape and can improve nutrient management strategies. This study describes spatial patterns of soil extractable P (easily, moderately, and poorly soluble P) in agricultural landscapes of the Red River basin and the southern Great Lakes region. Surface soils (0-30 cm) and select deeper cores (0-90 cm) were collected from 10 cropped fields ranging in terrain (near-level to hummocky), soil texture (clay to loam), composition (calcareous to noncalcareous), and climate across these differing glacial landscapes. Poorly soluble P dominated (up to 91%) total extractable P in the surface soils at eight sites. No differences in the relative solubilities of soil extractable P with microtopography were apparent in landscapes without defined surface depressions. In contrast, in landscapes with pronounced surface depressions, increased easily soluble P (Sol-P), and decreased soil P sorption capacity were found in soil in wetter, low-slope zones relative to drier upslope locations. The Sol-P pool was most important to soil P retention (up to 28%) within the surface depressions of the Red River basin and at sites with low-carbonate soils in the southern Lake Erie watershed (up to 28%), representing areas at elevated risk of soil P remobilization. This study demonstrates interrelationships among soil extractable P pools, soil development, and soil moisture regimes in agricultural glacial landscapes and provides insight into identifying potential areas for soil P remobilization and associated P availability to crops and runoff.
The eutrophication of freshwater systems is a pervasive issue in North America and elsewhere, which has been linked to elevated phosphorus (P) loading from watersheds. Most excess P is thought to originate from non-point agricultural sources, and less attention has been given to small rural point sources, such as bunker silos on livestock farms. Sophisticated management practices are rarely used to attenuate nutrients from bunker silo effluent, leaving simple vegetated buffer strips or riparian zones to protect surface water; however, the efficacy of these systems or larger constructed treatment systems is unclear. This study compared two systems receiving bunker silo effluent, one a natural riparian system with a vegetated buffer strip that is the most common practice and the other a constructed treatment system with a forebay, slag filter, and swale. The study quantified P retention within various subsections of each system and characterized the forms of stored P to infer the potential for remobilization. Results indicate that soils receiving bunker silo effluent represent considerable stores of legacy P in the landscape (750 and 3400 kg ha−1), the majority of which is stored in labile forms that may be vulnerable to remobilization under the waterlogged conditions that often occur in management practices and riparian zones. Some areas of the systems were able to store considerably more P than others, with the slag filter showing the greatest treatment efficacy. Spatial variability in stored P was apparent, where sections of the systems that directly received effluent retained more P than sections located farther away from bunker silos (indirect inputs). Results indicate that passive treatment systems become P saturated over time, limiting their longterm P removal efficacy. The efficacy of these systems may be improved with the inclusion of sorptive materials as a slag filter within the constructed treatment system significantly increased the life expectancy of that system. Greater understanding of both quantity and forms of P retained in systems and soils receiving bunker silo effluent will help develop management strategies that are more effective and longer-lasting for reducing excess P losses to surface water bodies.
Water use efficiency (WUE) can be calculated using a range of methods differing in carbon uptake and water use variable selection. Consequently, inconsistencies arise between WUE calculations due to complex physical and physiological interactions. The purpose of this study was to quantify and compare WUE estimates (harvest or flux-based) for alfalfa (C3 plant) and maize (C4 plant) and determine effects of input variables, plant physiology and farming practices on estimates. Four WUE calculations were investigated: two “harvest-based” methods, using above ground carbon content and either precipitation or evapotranspiration (ET), and two “flux-based” methods, using gross primary productivity (GPP) and either ET or transpiration. WUE estimates differed based on method used at both half-hourly and seasonal scales. Input variables used in calculations affected WUE estimates, and plant physiology led to different responses in carbon assimilation and water use variables. WUE estimates were also impacted by different plant physiological responses and processing methods, even when the same carbon assimilation and water use variables were considered. This study highlights a need to develop a metric of measuring cropland carbon-water coupling that accounts for all water use components, plant carbon responses, and biomass production.
Agricultural tile drainage is expanding in the northern Great Plains of North America. Given ongoing environmental and political concerns related to the eutrophication of Lake Winnipeg in Canada and the potential for tile drains to transport significant quantities of nutrients from agricultural fields, an improved understanding of nutrient dynamics in tile drains in this region is needed. This study characterized seasonal patterns in tile flow and chemistry under variable hydroclimatic conditions and related this variance to temporal variability in soil hydraulic properties in a farm in southern Manitoba, Canada, from 2015 to 2017. Tile flow, soil hydraulic properties, and groundwater table position all varied seasonally, as did the chemistry of tile drain effluent. The majority of annual tile discharge, which occurred in late spring, appears to have been contributed by shallow groundwater, primarily through soil matrix pathways. At these greater tile flow rates, concentrations of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and total phosphorus (TP) were low (<0.03 mg L<sup>–1</sup> SRP, <0.04 mg L<sup>–1</sup> TP), but concentrations of nitrate (NO<sub>3</sub>-N) were high (20 to 25 mg L<sup>–1</sup> NO<sub>3</sub>-N). In contrast, tile flows outside of this peak period appeared to be primarily attributed to preferential flow pathways through frozen (snowmelt) and dry soil cracks (summer). Phosphorus (P) concentrations were greater during snowmelt and summer (~0.05 mg L<sup>–1</sup> SRP, ~0.1 mg L<sup>–1</sup> TP) but did not produce significant nutrient loads due to the minimal tile discharge rates (<1 mm d<sup>–1</sup>). This work suggests that the expansion of tile drainage may not exacerbate water quality issues involving P in the northern Great Plains but may increase nitrogen (N) loads in local water bodies.
Phosphorus (P) runoff from agricultural land plays a critical role in downstream water quality. This article summarizes P and sediment runoff data for both snowmelt and rainfall runoff from 30 arable fields in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The data were collected from 216 site-years of field experiments, with climates ranging from semi-arid to humid and a wide range of field management practices. In the article, mean annual and seasonal (in terms of snowmelt and rain) precipitation inputs, runoff depths, and P and sediment concentrations and loads are presented, along with ranges of yearly values. In addition, information of field management and soil characteristics (e.g. soil type and soil Olsen P) is also presented for each field. The data have potential to be reused for national and international cross-region comparisons of P and sediment losses, constructing and validating decision-support models and tools for assessing and managing P losses in both snowmelt and rainfall runoff, and informing beneficial management practices to improve agricultural water quality. Interpretation of the data is found in “Phosphorus runoff from Canadian agricultural land: A cross-region synthesis of edge-of-field results”  .
Algal blooms fueled by phosphorus (P) enrichment are threatening surface water quality around the world. Although P loss from arable land is a critical contributor to P loads in many agricultural watersheds , there has been a lack of understanding of P loss patterns and drivers across regions. Here, we synthesized edge-of-field P and sediment runoff data for 30 arable fields in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario (a total of 216 site-years) to elucidate spatial and temporal differences in runoff and P mobilization in snowmelt and rainfall runoff, and discuss climatic, soil and management drivers for these patterns. Across all regions, precipitation inputs were positively correlated with runoff amounts and consequently P loads. Runoff and P losses were dominated by snowmelt across all sites, however, regional differences in runoff amounts, and P concentrations, loads and speciation were apparent. Proportions of total P in the dissolved form were greater in the prairie region (55–94% in Manitoba) than in the Great Lakes region (26–35% in Ontario). In Manitoba, dissolved P concentrations in both snowmelt and rainfall runoff were strongly positively correlated to soil Olsen P concentrations in the 0–5 cm soil depth; however, this relationship was not found for Ontario fields, where tile drainage dominated hydrologic losses. Although precipitation amounts and runoff volumes were greater in Ontario than Manitoba, some of the greatest P loads were observed from Manitoba fields, driven by management practices. This synthesis highlights the differences across the Canadian agricultural regions in P runoff patterns and drivers, and suggests the need of co-ordinated and standardized monitoring programs to better understand regional differences and inform management. Phosphorus runoff patterns vary with climatic regions across Canada. †The dissolved P was measured as total dissolved P in MB and dissolved reactive P in SK and ON. ‡Total P was not measured in SK. • Phosphorus runoff patterns and drivers vary with climatic regions across Canada. • Co-ordinated and standardized monitoring programs are key to clarify regional differences. • Snowmelt dominates runoff volume and phosphorus loss across Canada. • The predominant form of P in runoff differs between the Prairie region and the Great Lakes region. • Reducing phosphorus sources is important for mitigating phosphorus runoff.
One size does not fit all: Toward regional conservation practice guidance to reduce phosphorus loss risk in the Lake Erie watershed
Merrin L. Macrae,
Helen P. Jarvie,
Grant E. Gunn,
Kevin W. King,
Peter J. A. Kleinman,
Mark R. Williams,
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 50, Issue 3
Agricultural phosphorus (P) losses to surface water bodies remain a global eutrophication concern, despite the application of conservation practices on farm fields. Although it is generally agreed upon that the use of multiple conservation practices (“stacking”) will lead to greater improvements to water quality, this may not be cost effective to farmers, reducing the likelihood of adoption. At present, wholesale recommendations of conservation practices are given; however, the application of specific conservation practices in certain environments (e.g., no-till with surface application, cover crops) may not be effective and can even lead to unintended consequences. In this paper, we present the Lake Erie watershed as a case study. The Lake Erie watershed contains regions with unique physical geographies that include differences in climate, soil, topography, and land use, which have implications for both P transport from agricultural fields and the efficacy of conservation practices in mitigating P losses. We define major regions within the Lake Erie watershed where common strategies for conservation practice implementation are appropriate, and we propose a five-step plan for bringing regionally tailored, adaptive, and cost-conscious conservation practice into watershed planning. Although this paper is specific to the Lake Erie watershed, our framework can be transferred across broader geographic regions to provide guidance for watershed planning.
Nutrient losses from agricultural operations are a major contributor to the eutrophication of freshwaters. Although many studies have quantified diffuse nutrient losses, less is known about agricultural point-source contributions, such as bunker silos, to watershed phosphorus (P) loads. This study examined the contributions of a dairy farm bunker silo effluent to watershed soluble reactive P (SRP) and total P (TP) losses. The bunker silo effluent discharged to an adjacent stream via a riparian soakaway for ca. 15 years. Prior to the annual refilling of the bunker silo, flow weighted mean concentrations of SRP (TP) were similar between stream locations up and downstream of the farm. After the bunker silo was refilled, flow-weighted SRP (TP) concentrations in the stream increased by factors of 1.5(2.2) during events and 3.1(2.3) during baseflow. Higher P concentrations occurred in the riparian soils receiving bunker silo effluent (525–3125 mg/kg TP, and 0.1–9.9 mg/kg water extractable P (WEP), compared with 525–939 mg/kg TP, and 0.11–1.43 mg/kg WEP on the opposite side of the stream with no bunker silo effluent. Riparian soils impacted by the bunker silo were near P-saturation, and the riparian zone did little to reduce P transfer in shallow groundwater. The net contributions of bunker silo effluent to annual watershed P losses were 32% (SRP) and 22% (TP). This study highlights the importance of agricultural point sources, and the need to quantify their contributions to watershed P budgets to target P remediation effectively.
• Application of popular catchment nutrient models is problematic in cold regions. • New nutrient modules have been developed for the Cold Regions Hydrological Model. • The model was applied to a sub-basin of the increasingly eutrophic Lake Winnipeg, Canada. • Simulated SWE, discharge, NO3, NH4, SRP and partP were compared against observations. • Typical ∼9 day-freshet accounted for 16–31% of the total annual nutrient load. Excess nutrients in aquatic ecosystems is a major water quality problem globally. Worsening eutrophication issues are notable in cold temperate areas, with pervasive problems in many agriculturally dominated catchments. Predicting nutrient export to rivers and lakes is particularly difficult in cold agricultural environments because of challenges in modelling snow, soil, frozen ground, climate, and anthropogenic controls. Previous research has shown that the use of many popular small basin nutrient models can be problematic in cold regions due to poor representation of cold region hydrology. In this study, the Cold Regions Hydrological Modelling Platform (CRHM), a modular modelling system, which has been widely deployed across Canada and cold regions worldwide, was used to address this problem. CRHM was extended to simulate biogeochemical and transport processes for nitrogen and phosphorus through a complex of new process-based modules that represent physicochemical processes in snow, soil and freshwater. Agricultural practices such as tillage and fertilizer application, which strongly impact the availability and release of soil nutrients, can be explicitly represented in the model. A test case in an agricultural basin draining towards Lake Winnipeg shows that the model can capture the extreme hydrology and nutrient load variability of small agricultural basins at hourly time steps. It was demonstrated that fine temporal resolutions are an essential modelling requisite to capture strong concentration changes in agricultural tributaries in cold agricultural environments. Within these ephemeral and intermittent streams, on average, 30%, 31%, 20%, and 16% of the total annual load of nitrate (NO 3 ), ammonium (NH 4 ), soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), and particulate phosphorous (partP)NO 3 , NH 4 , SRP and partP occurred during the episodic snowmelt freshet ( ∼ 9 days, accounting for 21% of the annual flow), but shows extreme temporal variation. The new nutrient modules are critical tools for predicting nutrient export from small agricultural drainage basins in cold climates via better representation of key hydrological processes, and a temporal resolution more suited to capture dynamics of ephemeral and intermittent streams.
The detrimental impacts of agricultural subsurface tile flows and their associated pollutants on water quality is a major environmental issue in the Great Lakes region and many other places globally. A strong understanding of water quality indicators along with the contribution of tile-drained agriculture to water contamination is necessary to assess and reduce a significant source of non-point source pollution. In this study, DRAINMOD, a field-scale hydrology and water quality model, was applied to assess the impact of future climatic change on depth to water table, tile flow and associated nitrate loss from an 8.66 ha agricultural field near Londesborough, in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. The closest available climate data from a weather station approximately 10 km from the field site was used by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to generate future predictions of daily precipitation and maximum and minimum air temperatures required to create the weather files for DRAINMOD. Of the 28 models applied by MNRF, three models (CGCM3T47-Run5, GFDLCM2.0, and MIROC3.2hires) were selected based on the frequency of the models recommended for use in Ontario with SRA1B emission scenario. Results suggested that simulated tile flows and evapotranspiration (ET) in the 2071–2100 period are expected to increase by 7% and 14% compared to 1960–1990 period. Results also suggest that under future climates, significant increases in nitrate losses (about 50%) will occur along with the elevated tile flows. This work suggests that climate change will have a significant effect on field hydrology and water quality in tile-drained agricultural regions.
Tile drainage of agricultural fields is a conduit for nutrient losses. Preferential flow in the soil can more directly connect surface runoff with tile drainage compared with matrix flow, which may also increase P losses. In this study, water temperature was monitored in surface runoff and tile drainage and electrical conductivity (EC) was measured in tile drainage at two sites in southern Ontario with different soil types (i.e., clay and loam). These data were used to estimate the percentage of preferential flow in tile drainage based on end member mixing. Estimates using temperature were compared with estimates using EC, and both were evaluated across seasons and hydrographs and compared with P concentration and load data. There was strong correlation (r = .83) between estimates of preferential flow using the two methods, but due to variability in surface temperatures, EC provided a less flashy estimate for preferential flow (Durbin–Watson statistics of 0.34 for temperature and 0.09 for EC). Preferential flow accounted for a higher percentage of tile drainage flow in clay soil than loam, but percentages were not significantly different between seasons or timing within events. Phosphorus concentrations and loads were weakly correlated with preferential flow, suggesting that P transport was influenced by other factors as well. Although further work is necessary to calibrate these methods for estimating preferential flow from continuously monitored temperature and EC, this technique can be applied to already collected data to model and test posited explanations of observed phenomena in P, other nutrients, and water transport from tile‐drained agricultural land.
Abstract Water quality issues, including harmful and nuisance algal blooms (HNABs), related to nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) exported from agricultural lands persist in the Great Lakes region. Previous work examining N and P loss from agricultural fields in portions of the United States (US) and Canada (CA) that drain into Lake Erie, consistently indicate significant nutrient loss from fields in Indiana and Ohio, US compared with those in southwestern Ontario, CA. The primary objective of this study was to examine variation in environmental and management characteristics from 30 sites (US: n = 28, CA: n = 2) located within the Lake Erie Basin and subsequently determine the influence of among-site variation on edge-of-field N and P losses. Using principal component analyses (PCA), we found that among-site variation was predominantly controlled by broad-scale patterns in fertilizer management practices and soil properties; however, N and P loss metrics were largely unexplained by these gradients. As such, fine-scale variability and the interaction of environmental and management characteristics at individual sites more strongly influenced N and P loss. Ultimately, these results further emphasize the importance of site- and nutrient-specific management plans that are needed to mitigate N and P losses from agricultural fields.
Biogeochemical and climate drivers of wetland phosphorus and nitrogen release: Implications for nutrient legacies and eutrophication risk
Helen P. Jarvie,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Michael J. Bowes,
Stephen M. King,
Richard J. Williams,
Linda K. Armstrong,
David J. Nicholls,
William D. Lord,
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 49, Issue 6
The dynamics and processes of nutrient cycling and release were examined for a lowland wetland-pond system, draining woodland in southern England. Hydrochemical and meteorological data were analyzed from 1997 to 2017, along with high-resolution in situ sensor measurements from 2016 to 2017. The results showed that even a relatively pristine wetland can become a source of highly bioavailable phosphorus (P), nitrogen (N), and silicon (Si) during low-flow periods of high ecological sensitivity. The drivers of nutrient release were primary production and accumulation of biomass, which provided a carbon (C) source for microbial respiration and, via mineralization, a source of bioavailable nutrients for P and N co-limited microorganisms. During high-intensity nutrient release events, the dominant N-cycling process switched from denitrification to nitrate ammonification, and a positive feedback cycle of P and N release was sustained over several months during summer and fall. Temperature controls on microbial activity were the primary drivers of short-term (day-to-day) variability in P release, with subdaily (diurnal) fluctuations in P concentrations driven by water body metabolism. Interannual relationships between nutrient release and climate variables indicated “memory” effects of antecedent climate drivers through accumulated legacy organic matter from the previous year's biomass production. Natural flood management initiatives promote the use of wetlands as “nature-based solutions” in climate change adaptation, flood management, and soil and water conservation. This study highlights potential water quality trade-offs and shows how the convergence of climate and biogeochemical drivers of wetland nutrient release can amplify background nutrient signals by mobilizing legacy nutrients, causing water quality impairment and accelerating eutrophication risk.
Abstract Soil erosion from agricultural lands continues to be a global societal problem. The movement of soils is often accompanied by nitrogen and phosphorus that are crucial to crop growth, but their redistribution from farm fields to waterways can reduce crop yields and degrade water quality. While within-field sediment and nutrient movement has been quantified using small plots and edge-of-field monitoring, these approaches fail to capture their spatial distribution. The pairing of soil sampling with unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) data offers a novel and low-cost approach to map the spatial distribution of soil characteristics and nutrient concentrations within a farm field. UAV data are used to generate a digital terrain model and subsequently map within-field topographic variation and erosional flow pathways. Topographic variation is discretized into landform elements (flat, shoulder, backslope, footslope) that capture within-field heterogeneity and have potential for scaling out soil sampling to larger spatial extents. Our results show the controlling factor of water content and organic matter on crop yield, as represented by normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Significant differences in water content and organic matter were found across landform elements with increases in both parameters downslope. Upslope landform elements contained more sand content (9–20%) and had lower NDVI values than downslope elements. Complementing these findings, significant differences in organic matter, soluble nitrogen, and soluble reactive phosphorus occurred along erosional flow pathways. Our within-field results have implications for farmers, as our analysis of soil characteristics indicated that NDVI was positively correlated with water content (0.05), organic matter (0.15), silt (0.36), and clay (0.17) content and negatively correlated with soluble nitrogen (−0.47) and phosphorus (−0.30) concentrations. In addition to discussing the challenges and opportunities for expanding upon the presented research, we use a simple proof-of-concept hydrological model to demonstrate the potential role of hydrological connectivity and variable source area as a driver of within-field nutrient movement. The combination of our empirical results showing water content and organic matter as controlling factors on agricultural yield, the role of hydrological connectivity, and climate predictions of increased storm intensity suggest that additional research into the generation of novel time-series soil sampling and UAV-generated erosion and flow data could advance our understanding of the variations in soil characteristics and nutrient concentrations within individual farm fields.
This study quantified the contributions of overland and tile flow to total runoff (sum of overland and tile flow) and nutrient losses in a Vertisolic soil in the Red River valley (Manitoba, Canada), a region with a cold climate where tile drainage is rapidly expanding. Most annual runoff occurred as overland flow (72-89%), during spring snowmelt and large spring and summer storms. Tile drains did not flow in early spring due to frozen ground. Although tiles flowed in late spring and summer (33-100% of event flow), this represented a small volume of annual runoff (10-25%), which is in stark contrast with what has been observed in other tile-drained landscapes. Median daily flow-weighted mean concentrations of soluble reactive P (SRP) and total P (TP) were significantly greater in overland flow than in tile flow ( < 0.001), but the reverse pattern was observed for NO-N ( < 0.001). Overland flow was the primary export pathway for both P and NO-N, accounting for >95% of annual SRP and TP and 50 to 60% of annual NO-N losses. Data suggest that tile drains do not exacerbate P export from Vertisols in the Red River valley because they are decoupled from the surface by soil-ice during snowmelt, which is the primary time for P loss. However, NO-N loading to downstream water bodies may be exacerbated by tiles, particularly during spring and summer storms after fertilizer application.
Agricultural Water Quality in Cold Climates: Processes, Drivers, Management Options, and Research Needs
Helen M. Baulch,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Henry F. Wilson,
J. M. Elliott,
Aaron J. Glenn,
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 48, Issue 4
Cold agricultural regions are important sites of global food production. This has contributed to widespread water quality degradation influenced by processes and hydrologic pathways that differ from warm region analogues. In cold regions, snowmelt is often a dominant period of nutrient loss. Freeze-thaw processes contribute to nutrient mobilization. Frozen ground can limit infiltration and interaction with soils, and minimal nutrient uptake during the nongrowing season may govern nutrient export from agricultural catchments. This paper reviews agronomic, biogeochemical, and hydrological characteristics of cold agricultural regions and synthesizes findings of 23 studies that are published in this special section, which provide new insights into nutrient cycling and hydrochemical processes, model developments, and the efficacy of different potentially beneficial management practices (BMPs) across varied cold regions. Growing evidence suggests the need to redefine optimum soil phosphorus levels and input regimes in cold regions to allow achievement of water quality targets while still supporting strong agricultural productivity. Practices should be considered through a regional and site-specific lens, due to potential interactions between climate, hydrology, vegetation, and soils, which influence the efficacy of nutrient, crop, water, and riparian buffer management. This leads to differing suitability of BMPs across varied cold agricultural regions. We propose a systematic approach (""), to achieve water quality objectives in variable and changing climates, which combines nutrient transport process onceptualization, nderstanding BMP functions, redicting effects of variability and change, onsideration of producer input and agronomic and environmental tradeoffs, practice daptation, nowledge mobilization, and valuation of water quality improvement.
The use of cover crops and crop residues is a common strategy to mitigate sediment and nutrient losses from land to water. In cold climates, elevated dissolved P losses can occur associated with freeze-thaw of plant materials. Here, we review the impacts of cover crops and crop residues on dissolved P and total P loss in cold climates across ∼41 studies, exploring linkages between water-extractable P (WEP) in plant materials and P loss in surface runoff and subsurface drainage. Water-extractable P concentrations are influenced by plant type and freezing regimes. For example, WEP was greater in brassica cover crops than in non-brassicas, and increased with repeated freeze-thaw cycles. However, total P losses in surface runoff and subsurface drainage from cropped fields under cold climates were much lower than plant WEP, owing to retention of 45 to >99% of released P by soil. In cold climatic regions, cover crops and crop residues generally prevented soil erosion and loss of particle-bound P during nongrowing seasons in erodible landscapes but tended to elevate dissolved P loss in nonerodible soils. Their impact on total P loss was inconsistent across studies and complicated by soil, climate, and management factors. More research is needed to understand interactions between these factors and plant type that influence P loss, and to improve the assessment of crop contributions to P loss in field settings in cold climates. Further, tradeoffs between P loss and the control of sediment loss and N leaching by plants should be acknowledged.
Agricultural P losses are a global economic and water quality concern. Much of the current understanding of P dynamics in agricultural systems has been obtained from rainfall-driven runoff, and less is known about cold-season processes. An improved understanding of the magnitude, form, and transport flow paths of P losses from agricultural croplands year round, and the climatic drivers of these processes, is needed to prioritize and evaluate appropriate best management practices (BMPs) to protect soil-water quality in cold regions. This study examines multiyear, year-round, high-frequency edge-of-field P losses (soluble reactive P and total P [TP]) in overland flow and tile drainage from three croplands in southern Ontario, Canada. Annual and seasonal budgets for water, P, and estimates of field P budgets (including fertilizer inputs, crop uptake, and runoff) were calculated for each site. Annual edge-of-field TP loads ranged from 0.18 to 1.93 kg ha yr (mean = 0.59 kg ha yr) across the region, including years with fertilizer application. Tile drainage dominated runoff across sites, whereas the contribution of tiles and overland flow to P loss differed regionally, likely related to site-specific topography, soil type, and microclimate. The nongrowing season was the dominant period for runoff and P loss across sites, where TP loss during this period was often associated with overland flow during snowmelt. These results indicate that emphasis should be placed on BMPs that are effective during both the growing and nongrowing season in cold regions, but that the suitability of various BMPs may vary for different sites.
In northern regions, a high proportion of annual runoff and phosphorus (P) export from cropland occurs with snowmelt. In this study, we analyze 57 site-years of field-scale snowmelt runoff data from 16 small watersheds draining fine-textured soils (clay or clay loam) in Manitoba, Canada. These fields were selected across gradients of soil P (2.4 to 26.7 mg kg, 0- to 15-cm Olsen P), tillage intensity (high frequency to long-term no-till), and fertilizer input. The strongest predictor of flow-weighted mean concentrations of total dissolved P (TDP) in snowmelt runoff was Olsen P in the top 5 cm of soil ( = 0.45, < 0.01). Residual variation in this relationship related positively to volumetric soil moisture and negatively to water yield. Although Olsen P levels were relatively consistent from year to year, suggesting control by long-term fertilization and tillage history, Olsen P stratification (ratio of 0-5/0-15 cm) increased with rates of fertilizer application. Particulate P (PP) comprised <34% of total P on average, and concentrations were not well predicted by soil or management characteristics. Loads of PP and TDP exported during snowmelt were primarily a function of water yield and size of accumulated snowpack; however, residual variation in the TDP relationship correlated positively with both soil moisture and Olsen P. Retention of runoff water on the landscape could reduce loads, but careful management of near-surface soil P is required to prevent snowmelt runoff losses of P at the source and to reduce the potential for the eutrophication of downstream aquatic ecosystems.
Preferential flowpaths transport phosphorus (P) to agricultural tile drains. However, if and to what extent this may vary with soil texture, moisture conditions, and P placement is poorly understood. This study investigated (a) interactions between soil texture, antecedent moisture conditions, and the relative contributions of matrix and preferential flow and (b) associated P distributions through the soil profile when fertilizers were applied to the surface or subsurface. Brilliant blue dye was used to stain subsurface flowpaths in clay and silt loam plots during simulated rainfall events under wet and dry conditions. Fertilizer P was applied to the surface or via subsurface placement to plots of different soil texture and moisture condition. Photographs of dye stains were analysed to classify the flow patterns as matrix dominated or macropore dominated, and soils within plots were analysed for their water‐extractable P (WEP) content. Preferential flow occurred under all soil texture and moisture conditions. Dye penetrated deeper into clay soils via macropores and had lower interaction with the soil matrix, compared with silt loam soil. Moisture conditions influenced preferential flowpaths in clay, with dry clay having deeper infiltration (92 ± 7.6 cm) and less dye–matrix interaction than wet clay (77 ± 4.7 cm). Depth of staining did not differ between wet (56 ± 7.2 cm) and dry (50 ± 6.6 cm) silt loam, nor did dominant flowpaths. WEP distribution in the top 10 cm of the soil profile differed with fertilizer placement, but no differences in soil WEP were observed at depth. These results demonstrate that large rainfall events following drought conditions in clay soil may be prone to rapid P transport to tile drains due to increased preferential flow, whereas flow in silt loams is less affected by antecedent moisture. Subsurface placement of fertilizer may minimize the risk of subsurface P transport, particularily in clay.
Preferential flow is prevalent in clay soil under both frozen and thawed conditions. Preferential flow dominates the infiltration regime under frozen soil conditions in silt loam. Subsurface placement of fertilizer can limit subsurface nutrient leaching. Subsurface placement is particularly effective in soil with abundant preferential flow. Subsurface placement is recommended for fall fertilizer application.
Abstract Algal blooms in the Great Lakes are a concern due to excess nutrient loading from non-point sources; however, there is uncertainty over the relative contributions of various non-point sources under different types of land use in rural watersheds, particularly over annual time scales. Four nested subwatersheds in Southern Ontario, Canada (one natural woodlot, two agricultural and one mixed agricultural and urban) were monitored over one year to identify peak periods (‘hot moments’) and areas (‘hot spots’) of nutrient (dissolved reactive phosphorus, DRP; total phosphorus, TP; and nitrate, NO3−) export and discharge. Annual nutrient export was small at the natural site (0.001 kg DRP ha−1; 0.004 kg TP ha−1; 0.04 kg NO3—N ha−1) compared to the agricultural and mixed-use sites (0.10–0.15 kg DRP ha−1; 0.70–0.94 kg TP ha−1; 9.15–11.55 kg NO3—N ha−1). Temporal patterns in P concentrations were similar throughout the sites, where spring was the dominant season for P export, irrespective of land use. Within the Hopewell Creek watershed, P and N hot spots existed that were consistently hot spots across all events with the location of these hot spots driven by local land use patterns, where there was elevated P export from a dairy-dominated sub-watershed and elevated N export from both of the two agricultural sub-watersheds. These estimates of seasonal- and event-based nutrient loads and discharge across nested sub-watersheds contribute to the growing body of evidence demonstrating the importance of identifying critical areas and periods in which to emphasize management efforts.
Phosphorus (P) loss in agricultural discharge has typically been associated with surface runoff; however, tile drains have been identified as a key P pathway due to preferential transport. Identifying when and where these pathways are active may establish high-risk periods and regions that are vulnerable for P loss. A synthesis of high-frequency, runoff data from eight cropped fields across the Great Lakes region of North America over a 3-yr period showed that both surface and tile flow occurred year-round, although tile flow occurred more frequently. The relative timing of surface and tile flow activation was classified into four response types to infer runoff-generation processes. Response types were found to vary with season and soil texture. In most events across all sites, tile responses preceded surface flow, whereas the occurrence of surface flow prior to tile flow was uncommon. The simultaneous activation of pathways, indicating rapid connectivity through the vadose zone, was seldom observed at the loam sites but occurred at clay sites during spring and summer. Surface flow at the loam sites was often generated as saturation-excess, a phenomenon rarely observed on the clay sites. Contrary to expectations, significant differences in P loads in tiles were not apparent under the different response types. This may be due to the frequency of the water quality sampling or may indicate that factors other than surface-tile hydrologic connectivity drive tile P concentrations. This work provides new insight into spatial and temporal differences in runoff mechanisms in tile-drained landscapes.
Phosphorus (P) plays a crucial role in agriculture as a primary fertilizer nutrient-and as a cause of the eutrophication of surface waters. Despite decades of efforts to keep P on agricultural fields and reduce losses to waterways, frequent algal blooms persist, triggering not only ecological disruption but also economic, social, and political consequences. We investigate historical and persistent factors affecting agricultural P mitigation in a transect of major watersheds across North America: Lake Winnipeg, Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay, and Lake Okeechobee/Everglades. These water bodies span 26 degrees of latitude, from the cold climate of central Canada to the subtropics of the southeastern United States. These water bodies and their associated watersheds have tracked trajectories of P mitigation that manifest remarkable similarities, and all have faced challenges in the application of science to agricultural management that continue to this day. An evolution of knowledge and experience in watershed P mitigation calls into question uniform solutions as well as efforts to transfer strategies from other arenas. As a result, there is a need to admit to shortcomings of past approaches, plotting a future for watershed P mitigation that accepts the sometimes two-sided nature of Hennig Brandt's "Devil's Element."
Hydrologic models partition flows into surface and subsurface pathways, but their calibration is typically conducted only against streamflow. Here we argue that unless model outcomes are constrained using flow pathway data, multiple partitioning schemes can lead to the same streamflow. This point becomes critical for biogeochemical modeling as individual flow paths may yield unique chemical signatures. We show how information on flow pathways can be used to constrain hydrologic flow partitioning and how improved partitioning can lead to better water quality predictions. As a case study, an agricultural basin in Ontario is used to demonstrate that using tile discharge data could increase the performance of both the hydrology and the nitrogen transport models. Watershed‐scale tile discharge was estimated based on sparse tile data collected at some tiles using a novel regression‐based approach. Through a series of calibration experiments, we show that utilizing tile flow signatures as calibration criteria improves model performance in the prediction of nitrate loads in both the calibration and validation periods. Predictability of nitrate loads is improved even with no tile flow data and by model calibration only against an approximate understanding of annual tile flow percent. However, despite high values of goodness‐of‐fit metrics in this case, temporal dynamics of predictions are inconsistent with reality. For instance, the model predicts significant tile discharge in summer with no tile flow occurrence in the field. Hence, the proposed tile flow upscaling approach and the partitioning‐constrained model calibration are vital steps toward improving the predictability of biogeochemical models in tiled landscapes.
Agronomy Journa l • Volume 110 , I s sue 3 • 2018 Elevated levels of P transported into aquatic ecosystems from agricultural watersheds have contributed to the eutrophication of surface water bodies in Canada as well as freshwater habitats around the world (Smith et al., 1998; Schindler et al., 2012; Michalak et al., 2013; Jarvie et al., 2017). In salt water environments, eutrophication has been linked to anthropogenic N inputs (Gruber and Galloway, 2008; Congreves and Van Eerd, 2015). Eutrophication is problematic as it impacts both ecosystem and human health (Anderson et al., 2002), which reduces the recreational value of lakes as well as their potential use as drinking water sources (Smith et al., 1998, 2015). Consequently, there is significant pressure to reduce the export of P and N from surrounding watersheds (International Joint Commission, 2014). Although researchers and environmental managers have attempted to manage nutrient export for decades (Sharpley et al., 1994), the occurrence of large algal blooms has increased due to a combination of climate drivers as well as the large intensity of agricultural land use in surrounding watersheds (e.g. Michalak et al., 2013; Smith et al., 2015). There is also evidence that the elevated P loads from agricultural systems may be an unintended consequence of conservation practices (Jarvie et al., 2017). Thus, an improved understanding of the efficacy of best management practices (BMPs) is needed, and potential unintended consequences must be identified and quantified. The use of CC is a conservation practice that is growing in popularity (Wayman et al., 2016; Statistics Canada, 2017). Cover crops are plants grown by farmers for their benefits to the soil, environment, and future crop yields (Snapp et al., 2005; Blanco-Canqui et al., 2015). Cover crops have the benefit of reducing particulate P losses associated with soil erosion; however, concern has been raised about their potential to release dissolved reactive P (Tukey, 1970; Sharpley et al., 1994; Sturite et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2014). Phosphorus loss through leaching is typically minor; however, certain conditions and mechanical processes have been found to increase the concentration of nutrients in leachate (Tukey and Morgan, 1963; Bechmann et al., 2005; Lozier and Macrae, 2017; Lozier et al., 2017). Of particular importance for northern temperate regions is the effect of freezing on P release from plants, Nutrient Release from Living and Terminated Cover Crops Under Variable Freeze–Thaw Cycles
The Boreal Plains (BP) of Western Canada have been exposed to increasing disturbance by wildfire and host a mixture of upland‐wetland‐pond complexes with substantial quantities of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) throughout the terrestrial areas. The ability of these tree species to regenerate within both upland and wetland areas of the BP following wildfire is unclear. The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of fire on nutrient dynamics in soil and water in peatlands and forested landscapes in the BP and relate this to aspen regeneration. Nutrient concentrations, nutrient supply rates, and net nutrient mineralization rates were determined in burned and unburned sections of a peatland and forest and compared with the regeneration of aspen. NO3−, NH4+, and P varied spatially throughout the landscape, and differences were observed between peatland and upland areas. In general, differences in nutrient dynamics were not observed between burned and unburned areas, with the exception of P. Nutrient and growth data suggest that aspen do not require nutrient‐rich conditions for regeneration and instead relied on forest litter to satisfy nutrient demands. Although the peatlands contained high nutrients, aspen did not flourish in the combination of anoxic and aerobic organic‐rich soils present in this area. Although aspen may use peat water and nutrients through their rooting zones, peatlands are unsuitable for aspen re‐establishment in the long‐term. However, the combination of abundant nutrients in surface mineral soils in peat margins may indicate the vulnerability of margins to upland transformations in later successional stages.
Ecohydrological functioning of natural Boreal forest in Canada's Boreal Plains is a product of interactions between soil hydrophysical characteristics and hydrogeochemical processes. These interactions create a moisture–nutrient gradient within the surface soils, increasing along low‐relief transitions from upland to riparian zone, and in turn influence the distribution of vegetation communities. It is not yet known if/when analogous ecohydrological functions can be achieved in constructed uplands following industrial disturbance, such as that following oil sands development. Hence, to assess this, we studied interactions between hydrogeochemical processes and vegetation colonization in a constructed upland relative to hydrophysical properties of 2 reclamation cover substrates during a typical continental climate's growing season. Our results indicated that in 3 years of postconstruction, the establishment of a moisture–nutrient gradient that supports vegetation colonization along slope positions was still limited by heterogeneity of cover substrates. Portions of the upland under peat–mineral mix were characterized by lower nutrient availability, high moisture content, and establishment of planted shrubs and trees. In contrast, forest floor materials plots were characterized by poor soil quality, but higher nutrient availability and greater colonization of invasive grasses and native shrubs. We suggest that the colonization of underdeveloped soils by invasive grasses may facilitate pedogenic processes and thus should be accepted by reclamation managers as a successional milestone in the recovery of ecohydrological functioning of constructed uplands. Poor soil structure under forest floor materials could not support edaphic conditions required by plants to efficiently utilize fertilizer, making this practise futile at the early stage of soil development.
Water quality problems are frequently influenced by hydrological processes, particularly in landscapes in which land drainage has been modified. The expansion of agricultural tile drainage in the Northern Great Plains of North America is occurring, yet is controversial due to persistent water quality problems such as eutrophication. Runoff‐generating mechanisms in North American tile‐drained landscapes in vertisolic soils have not been investigated but are important for understanding the impacts of tile drainage on water quantity and quality. This study evaluated the role of climate drivers on the activation of overland (OF) and tile (TF) flow and groundwater flow responses (GWT) on tile‐drained and nontile‐drained farm fields in Southern Manitoba, Canada. The response times of different flow paths (OF, TF, and GWT) were compared for 23 hydrological events (April–September 2015, 2016) to infer dominant runoff generation processes. Runoff responses (all pathways) were more rapid following higher intensity rainfall. Subsurface responses were hastened by wetter antecedent conditions in spring and delayed by the seasonal soil–ice layer. The activation of OF did not differ between the tiled and nontiled fields, suggesting that tile drains do little to reduce the occurrence of OF in this landscape. Rapid vertical preferential flow into tiles via preferential flow pathways was uncommon at our site, and the soil profile instead wet up from the top down. These conclusions have implications for the expansion of tile drainage and the impact of such an expansion on hydrological and biogeochemical processes in agricultural landscapes.
Supply and Transport Limitations on Phosphorus Losses from Agricultural Fields in the Lower Great Lakes Region, Canada
Janina M. Plach,
Merrin L. Macrae,
Tatianna M. Lozier,
I. P. O’Halloran,
Christopher J. Van Esbroeck
Journal of Environmental Quality, Volume 47, Issue 1
Phosphorus (P) mobilization in agricultural landscapes is regulated by both hydrologic (transport) and biogeochemical (supply) processes interacting within soils; however, the dominance of these controls can vary spatially and temporally. In this study, we analyzed a 5-yr dataset of stormflow events across nine agricultural fields in the lower Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada, to determine if edge-of-field surface runoff and tile drainage losses (total and dissolved reactive P) were limited by transport mechanisms or P supply. Field sites ranged from clay loam, silt loam, to sandy loam textures. Findings indicate that biogeochemical processes (P supply) were more important for tile drain P loading patterns (i.e., variable flow-weighted mean concentrations () across a range of flow regimes) relative to surface runoff, which trended toward a more chemostatic or transport-limited response. At two sites with the same soil texture, higher tile  and greater transport limitations were apparent at the site with higher soil available P (STP); however, STP did not significantly correlate with tile  or P loading patterns across the nine sites. This may reflect that the fields were all within a narrow STP range and were not elevated in STP concentrations (Olsen-P, ≤25 mg kg). For the study sites where STP was maintained at reasonable concentrations, hydrology was less of a driving factor for tile P loadings, and thus management strategies that limit P supply may be an effective way to reduce P losses from fields (e.g., timing of fertilizer application).
Abstract Phosphorus (P) losses from agricultural soils are a growing economic and water-quality concern in the Lake Erie watershed. While recent studies have explored edge-of-field and watershed P losses related to land-use and agricultural management, the potential for soils developed from contrasting parent materials to retain or release P to runoff has not been examined. A field-based study comparing eight agricultural fields in contrasting glacial landscapes (hummocky coarse-textured till-plain, lacustrine and fine-textured till-plain) showed distinct physical and geochemical soil properties influencing inorganic P (Pi) partitioning throughout the soil profile between the two regions. Fields located on the coarse-textured till-plain in mid-western Ontario, Canada had alkaline calcareous soils with the highest Total-Pi concentrations and the majority of soil Pi stored in an acid-soluble pool (up to 91%). In contrast, loosely to moderately soluble Pi concentrations were higher in soils of the lacustrine and fine-textured till-plain in southwestern Ontario, northeast Indiana and northwestern Ohio, US. Overall, soils on the lacustrine and fine-textured till-plain had a greater shrink swell-capacity, likely creating preferential flow to minimize Pi interaction with the more acidic, lower carbonate and lower sorption capacity soils. These differences in soil Pi retention and transport pathways demonstrate that in addition to management, the natural landscape may exert a significant control on how Pi is mobilized throughout the Lake Erie watershed. Further, results indicate that careful consideration of region-specific hydrology and soil biogeochemistry may be required when designing appropriate management strategies to minimize Pi losses across the lower Great Lakes region.