Estimation of nitrate contamination of an agro-ecosystem outwash aquifer using a nitrogen mass-balance budget

Journal of Environmental Quality
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A mass-balance budget of N cycling was developed for an intensive agricultural area in west-central Minnesota to better understand NO3/- contamination of ground water in the Otter Tail outwash aquifer. Fertilizer, biological fixation, atmospheric deposition, and animal feed were the N sources, and crop harvests, animal product exports, volatilization from fertilizer and manure, and denitrification were the N sinks in the model. Excess N, calculated as the difference between the sources and sinks, was assumed to leach to ground water as NO3/-. The budget was developed using ground water data collected throughout the 212-km2 study area. Denitrification was estimated by adjusting its value so the predicted and measured concentrations of NO3/- in ground water agreed. Although biological fixation was the largest single N source, most was removed when crops were harvested, indicating that inorganic fertilizer was the primary source of N reaching the water table. It was estimated that denitrification removed almost half of the excess NO3/- that leached below the root zone. Even after accounting for denitrification losses, however, it was concluded that the ground water system was receiving approximately three times as much N as would be expected under background conditions.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Estimation of nitrate contamination of an agro-ecosystem outwash aquifer using a nitrogen mass-balance budget
Series title Journal of Environmental Quality
Volume 28
Issue 6
Year Published 1999
Language English
Publisher American Soc of Agronomy Inc
Publisher location Madison, WI, United States
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Journal of Environmental Quality
First page 2015
Last page 2025
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