Saturday, 15 July 2006

Quantifying the Impact of Subsurface Drip vs. Pivot Irrigation on Nitrogen Leaching to a Shallow Aquifer.

Omar R. Harvey and Cristine L.S. Morgan. Texas A&M Univ, Dept of Soil and Crop Sciences, College Station, TX 77843-2474

Nitrate losses from agricultural soils due to leaching are of great importance because of potential economic losses as well as contamination of groundwater resources. The risk of significant leaching occurring in irrigated cropland is enhanced for areas dominated by coarse textured soils. These coarse textured soils are often characterized by low nitrogen retention capacities and high hydraulic conductivities. One approach for reducing nitrogen leaching, which is used in Rolling Plains of West Texas, is to convert pivot irrigation to drip irrigation. The objective of this research is to examine and quantify the effect of such a conversion. This research is being conducted at the field scale, on privately owned production fields that are intensively managed for cotton fiber production. In this study the soils are receiving high nitrogen fertilizer rates. Six pivot irrigation fields were chosen for this work, and the first year, three of those fields were converted to drip irrigation. A water and nitrogen mass balance approach is employed and results for the first year of the study will be presented.

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