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Shallow Subsurface Drains to Reduce Nitrate Losses from Drained Agricultural Lands

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  032320,  2003 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.13833) @2003
Authors:   M.R. Burchell II, R.W. Skaggs, G.M. Chescheir, J.W. Gilliam, L.A. Arnold
Keywords:   Drainage, drain depth, nitrate, groundwater, swine wastewater

Data was collected between January 2001-September 2002 from two drainage systems near Plymouth, N.C. to evaluate the effect of subsurface drain depth on nitrate-nitrogen (NO3 --N) losses. Drains in Plot 1 were 1.5 m deep and 25 m apart, and drains in Plot 2 were 0.75 m deep and 12.5 m apart. Both plots received swine wastewater applications. Overall, decreased drain depth reduced drainage outflows by 42%. Lower NO3 --N concentrations were observed in the shallow groundwater beneath the shallow drainage plots as a result of higher water tables and increased denitrification. However, NO3 --N concentrations in the drainage water from the shallow drains were not reduced. On average, NO3 --N export from the shallow subsurface drains was 8 kg/ha in 2001 and 27 kg/ha in 2002. Nitrate export from the deeper drains was 6 kg/ha in 2001 and 37 kg/ha in 2002. Overall, an average of 8 kg/ha less NO3 --N was exported from the shallow subsurface drainage system. Decreased export observed in 2002 from the shallow subsurface drainage system was significant at the 10% level, but not for the entire 21-month period.

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