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Research article2012Peer reviewed

Tile drain losses of nitrogen and phosphorus from fields under integrated and organic crop rotations. A four-year study on a clay soil in southwest Sweden

Stenberg, Maria; Ulen, Barbro; Söderström, Mats; Roland, Björn; Delin, K; Helander, C-A


In order to explore the influence of site-specific soil properties on nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) losses between individual fields and crop sequences, 16 drained fields with clay soils were investigated in a four-year study. Mean total N (TN) loss was 6.6-11.1 from a conventional, 14.3-21.5 from an organic and 13.1-23.9 kg ha(-1) year(-1) from an integrated cropping system across a 4 year period, with 75% in nitrate form (NO3-N). Mean total P (TP) loss was 0.96-3.03. 0.99-4.63 and 0.76-2.67 kg ha(-1) year(-1), from the three systems respectively during the same period, with 25% in dissolved reactive form (DRP). Median N efficiency was calculated to be 70% including gains from estimated N fixation. According to principal component factor (PCA) analysis, field characteristics and cropping system were generally more important for losses of N and P than year. Accumulation of soil mineral N in the autumn and (estimated) N fixation was important for N leaching. No P fertilisers were used at the site in either cropping system. Total P concentration in drainage water from each of the fields was marginally significantly (p < 0.05) correlated to TP concentration in the topsoil (r = 0.52), measured in hydrochloric acid extract (P-HCl). Mean DRP concentrations were significantly (p < 0.01) correlated to degree of P saturation (DPS-AL) and soil carbon (C) content in the topsoil (r = 0.63). Good establishment of a crop with efficient nutrient uptake and good soil structure was general preconditions for low nutrient leaching. Incorporation of ley by tillage operations in the summer before autumn crop establishment and repeated operations in autumn as well, increased N leaching. Crop management in sequences with leguminous crops needs to be considered carefully when designing cropping systems high efficiency in N utilisation and low environmental impact. 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Cropping system; Degree of phosphorus saturation; Leaching; Soil mineral nitrogen; Nitrogen fixation; Water nutrient balance

Published in

Science of the Total Environment
2012, Volume: 434, pages: 79-89