The use of treated wastewater for irrigation of crops could result in high nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) concentrations in the vadose zone and ground water. The goal of this 2-yr field-monitoring study in the deep silty clay loam soils south of Dodge City, Kansas, was to assess how and under what circumstances N from the secondary-treated, wastewater-irrigated corn reached the deep (20-45 m) water table of the underlying High Plains aquifer and what could be done to minimize this problem. We collected 15.2-m-deep soil cores for characterization of physical and chemical properties; installed neutron probe access tubes to measure soil-water content and suction lysimeters to sample soil water periodically; sampled monitoring, irrigation, and domestic wells in the area; and obtained climatic, crop, irrigation, and N application rate records for two wastewater-irrigated study sites. These data and additional information were used to run the Root Zone Water Quality Model to identify key parameters and processes that influence N losses in the study area. We demonstrated that NO3-N transport processes result in significant accumulations of N in the vadose zone and that NO3-N in the underlying ground water is increasing with time. Root Zone Water Quality Model simulations for two wastewater-irrigated study sites indicated that reducing levels of corn N fertilization by more than half to 170 kg ha-1 substantially increases N-use efficiency and achieves near-maximum crop yield. Combining such measures with a crop rotation that includes alfalfa should further reduce the accumulation and downward movement of NO3-N in the soil profile. Copyright ?? 2009 by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Soil nitrogen balance under wastewater management: Field measurements and simulation results