A ‘Manage’ ed approach for 4R nutrient stewardship on drained land

Considerations for 4R nutrient stewardship on drained land

Crops: Canola Corn for grain Corn for silage Cotton Hay Potato Rice Ryegrass Sorghum Soybeans Sugar beets Sugarcane Winter wheat Wheat
4R Practices: Metadata Project

A “MANAGE”ed Approach to 4R Nutrient Stewardship on Drained Land

Lead Researcher:

Dr. Laura Christianson

Assistant Professor

University of Illinois

Collaborating scientists and universities

  • Dr. R. Daren Harmel, USDA-ARS

Start Date: 2014

End Date: 2015

Matching Funds

  • Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Resource Board

Project Summary

As agriculture in the 21st century is faced with increasing pressure to reduce negative environmental impacts while continuing to efficiently produce food, fiber, and fuel, it becomes ever more important to reflect upon more than half a century of drainage water quality research to identify future paths towards increased sustainability. This work provided a quantitative review of the water quality and crop yield impacts of artificially drained agronomic systems across North America by compiling data from drainage nutrient studies into the “Measured Annual Nutrient loads from Agricultural Environments” (MANAGE) database. Of the nearly 400 studies reviewed, 91 individual journal publications and 1279 site-years were included in the new MANAGE Drain Load table with data from 1961 to 2012.

Project Goals:

  • The MANAGE Drain Load database: Review and compilation of more than fifty years of drainage nutrient studies.
  • 4Rs water quality impacts: A review and synthesis of forty years of drainage nitrogen losses.
  • A quantitative review and synthesis of fifty years of drainage phosphorus losses.

Project Results:

  • Increasing nitrogen application rates both improved crop yields and increased dissolved nitrogen loads in drainage. “Fine-tuning” these rates is clearly important from economic and environmental standpoints, but it would be short-sighted and unrealistic to focus solely on this practice.
  • The order of magnitude difference between agronomic phosphorus application rates and phosphorus loadings that can cause ecological damage presents a serious environmental challenge, especially compared to nitrogen. Across the literature, generally less than 2% of applied phosphorus was lost in drainage in a given site year.
  • Practices such as applying at planting or side-dressing had lowest median nitrogen losses (not significant).
  • Adherence to 4Rs strategies is vital regardless of the nutrient source, and accurate implementation of the 4Rs approach will require site-specific knowledge.

Annual Reports