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Research article2014Peer reviewed

Controlled drainage and subirrigation - A water management option to reduce non-point source pollution from agricultural land

Wesström, Ingrid; Joel, Abraham; Messing, Ingmar


Losses of nutrients from arable land significantly contribute to the eutrophication of lakes and coastal waters. Consequently agricultural nutrient and water management strategies have been emphasized during the last decades. The problem of excessive drainage at certain times of the year in conventional drainage systems (CD) can in many cases be overcome by implementing controlled drainage strategies (CWT). The data for this paper is based on water management projects, at both plot and field scales, which have been carried out in Southern Sweden during the period 2002 to 2005. The studies included water table strategies in which the subsoil was subjected to various degrees of water status at different times of the year by means of controlled drainage system. They were run on one site with small plots and two sites with field scale plots, and each site consisted of one CD plot and three CWT plots.Compared to CD, CWT had lower subsurface runoff all years of measurement. Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in subsurface drainage water revealed no significant differences between CWT and CD. N and P losses, in contrast, tended to be lower in CWT than in CD, possibly due to lower runoff volumes in CWT. The yearly losses of NO3-N, Total-N, PO4-P and Total-P through the drainage system were on average 40% lower in CWT than in CD. The yield and N uptake by crops, in most measurements, were higher in CWT due to more water available during the cropping season and thereby improved N efficiency of the applied fertiliser. The results from the experiments revealed that controlled drainage has a potential to lower non-point source leaching of nutrients from agricultural land, improve N and P use efficiency and increase yields. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Water management system; N losses; P losses; N uptake; Soil mineral N

Published in

Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
2014, Volume: 198, pages: 74-82
Publisher: Elsevier Masson

      SLU Authors

      • Sustainable Development Goals

        Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
        Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

        UKÄ Subject classification

        Soil Science

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