In December, 1987, the states in the Chesapeake Bay region, along with the federal government, signed an agreement which called for a 40% reduction in nitrogen and phosphorus loadings to the Bay by the year 2000. To accomplish this goal, major reductions in nutrient loadings associated with agricultural management practices were deemed necessary. The objective of this study was to determine if reducing fertilizer inputs to the NT system would result in a reduction in nitrogen contamination of groundwater. In this study, groundwater, soil, and percolate samples were collected from two cropping systems. The first system was a conventional no-till (NT) grain production system with a two-year rotation of corn/winter wheat/double crop soybean. The second system, denoted low-input sustainable agriculture (LISA), produced the same crops using a winter legume and relay-cropped soybeans into standing wheat to reduce nitrogen and herbicide inputs. Nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in groundwater were significantly lower under the LISA system. Over 80% of the NT groundwater samples had NO3-N concentrations greater than 10 mgl-1, compared to only 4% for the LISA cropping system. Significantly lower soil mineral N to a depth of 180 cm was also observed. The NT soil had nearly twice as much mineral N present in the 90-180 cm portion than the LISA cropping system.
Nitrate Leaching to a Shallow Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer as Influenced by Conventional No-Till and Low-Input Sustainable Grain Production Systems
J. P. Craig, R. R. Weil; Nitrate Leaching to a Shallow Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer as Influenced by Conventional No-Till and Low-Input Sustainable Grain Production Systems. Water Sci Technol 1 August 1993; 28 (3-5): 691–700. doi: https://doi.org/10.2166/wst.1993.0475
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