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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2002

Implementation of best management practices in agriculture: modelling and monitoring of impacts on nitrogen leaching

Joelsson A, Kyllmar K


In Kattegat and the coastal water of the Baltic Sea, high nitrogen input from agricultural land is considered to be the main reason for eutrophication. International agreements and governmental programs have set a target to reduce the anthropogenic nitrogen load by 50 percent. Improved nitrogen removal in treatment plants and efforts in agriculture have so far not decreased nitrogen transport to a sufficient extent. In this project the impact of agricultural practices on nitrogen leaching was investigated in two small agricultural catchments in Southwest Sweden. The root-zone leaching was estimated by an indexing technique. Simultaneously the transports in the stream outlets were monitored. During 1995 and 1999 the agricultural practices in the catchments were surveyed. Field data from the first survey indicated that fertilisation did not always match crop requirements, the area of undersown catch crop can be increased and autumn cultivation can be reduced. The second survey was preceded by an advisory campaign where each farmer was visited and presented with an environmental plan including fertilisation, cultivation, and crop rotation for the farm. The plan summarised the best management practices that could be realised under actual conditions. Results from the second survey showed that some changes in the agricultural practices were carried out after the advisory campaign. The nitrogen leaching from the root-zone was then estimated by the indexing technique, both for the time before and after the advisory program. The results showed that the estimated nitrogen leaching, as a mean value for 330 fields, decreased from 53 to 50 kgN ha(-1), due to adjustments of the agricultural practices. Monitoring of stream transports showed values of the same magnitude after correction for retention and other sources. In this short time perspective, decreases in transport due to changes in agricultural practices could not be separated from influence of weather conditions. In comparison to results from the Swedish monitoring programme for agriculture, the measured transports were normal for the region, where annual variation in precipitation and runoff is large. Theoretically, nitrogen leaching could be reduced by one third without any major economic constraints for the farmers. In general, the farmers were positive to advice and Willing to try new farming techniques even if some measurements were not fully implemented during the investigation period

Published in

Water Science and Technology
2002, Volume: 45, number: 9, pages: 43-50

    SLU Authors

    Associated SLU-program


    UKÄ Subject classification

    Agricultural Science

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