Nitrate in shallow fluctuating groundwater under sugarcane: quantifying the lateral export quantities to surface waters

Rasiah, V., Armour, J.D., and Nelson, P.N. (2013) Nitrate in shallow fluctuating groundwater under sugarcane: quantifying the lateral export quantities to surface waters. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 180. pp. 103-110.

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Abstract

The contribution of groundwater (GW) pollutants, exported from via base-flow discharge, towards the loads in surface waters (SW) has been poorly characterised. This characterisation is needed for intensively cultivated agricultural catchments in which the base-flow discharges are substantial. In this study the flux theory based solute transport equations were used to clarify the issue of lateral transport of the nitrate in GW to SW and the contribution that it made towards the total load, in runoff plus base-flow, in the nearby creek. Water table levels under sugarcane and the concentrations of nitrate-N, ammonium-N (AN), and soluble P (SP), in six piezometers (10 m deep) installed along a 1.1 km transect perpendicularly crossing a creek were monitored over a period of two rainy seasons in paddocks in the northeast humid tropics of Queensland, Australia. Nitrate-N, AN, and SP concentrations in the GW increased with rising water table, decreased with receding levels, and varied spatiotemporally from 23 to 1500 µg L^−1 for nitrate-N, 4–332 µg L^−1 for AN, and 1–51 µg L^−1 for SP. Nitrate was transported at rates ranging from 0.008 g m^−2 d^−1 to 0.012 g m^−2 d^−1 in base-flow discharge towards the creek. Based on a hypothetical equivalent surface land area vs. 1 m x 1 m sub-surface soil matrix area, we show that approximately 52% of the total anthropogenic loading in the creek was from GW. This suggested a need for the adoption of N-fertiliser management practices that will reduce or minimise nitrate leaching to GW.

Item ID: 24771
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1873-2305
Keywords: sugarcane farming, groundwater, solute transport, lateral export
Funders: Australian Research Council
Projects and Grants: LP0669439
Date Deposited: 31 Jan 2013 00:32
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience > 040603 Hydrogeology @ 50%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070101 Agricultural Land Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8203 Industrial Crops > 820304 Sugar @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9611 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water > 961103 Physical and Chemical Conditions of Water in Fresh, Ground and Surface Water Environments (excl. Urban and @ 50%
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