Processes controlling the flux of legacy phosphorus to surface waters at the farm scale
“Phosphorus (P) leaching from agriculture is a major driver of water eutrophication in downstream rivers and lakes. In drained lowland areas with intensive agriculture, a reduction in the fertilizer applications may be insufficient to improve the water quality in the short term as the P accumulated in the soil during decades of high fertilization may continue leaching for many years. A complementary approach to reduce P exports from agriculture is to implement edge-of-field mitigation measures at the farm scale. The selection of effective measures requires a detailed insight into the chemical and hydrological transport mechanisms. Here, we determined the main P sources, processes, and transport routes at the farm scale to support the selection of appropriate mitigation measures. We quantified the legacy P, the different P pools stored in the upper soil, and related it to the yearly P export downstream. To do this, we combined high-resolution monitoring data from the soil, groundwater, surface water, and ditch sediments. The legacy P in the topsoil was high, about 2500 kg ha−1. The predominant subsurface flow and the subsoils’ P sorption capacity retained the P mobilized from the topsoil and explained the relative moderate flux of P to surface waters (0.04 kg ha−1 during the 2018–2019 drainage season). The dissolved P entering the drainage ditch via groundwater discharge was bound to iron-containing particles formed due to the oxidation of dissolved ferrous iron. Once leached from the soil to the drainage ditch, resuspension of P-rich sediment particles during flow peaks were the most important P transport mechanism (78%). Therefore, we expect that hydraulic constructions that reduce flow velocities and promote sedimentation of P-containing particles could reduce the export of P further downstream.”
(Citation: Barcala, V., Rozemeijer, J., Osté, L., van der Grift, B., et.al. – Processes controlling the flux of legacy phosphorus to surface waters at the farm scale – Environmental Research Letters 16(2021)1, art. no. 015003 – DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/abcdd4 – (Open Access))
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