Closed depressions and soil phosphorus influence subsurface phosphorus losses in a tile-drained field in Illinois

Luis F. Andino, Lowell E. Gentry, Jennifer M. Fraterrigo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Artificial subsurface (tile) drainage systems can convey phosphorus (P) from agricultural fields to surface waters; however, controls of subsurface dissolved reactive P (DRP) losses at the sub-field scale are not fully understood. We characterized subsurface DRP loads and flow-weighted mean concentration (FWMC) from January 2015 through September 2017 to determine seasonal (growing vs. non-growing) patterns from 36 individually monitored plots across a farm under a corn (Zea mays L.) and soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation in east-central Illinois. Using linear mixed models, we investigated the effects of soil test P (STP), depression depth, and their interaction with precipitation and P fertilization on subsurface DRP losses. Dissolved reactive P loads in drainage tiles increased with precipitation and were greatest during the non-growing season (NGS) in 2016 and 2017. Annual subsurface DRP loads were positively related to STP, and during the NGS, there was a positive relationship between depression depth quantified at the plot-scale and subsurface DRP loads and FWMC. Along a depression-depth gradient, piecewise regression displayed a threshold at a depth of 0.38 m at which STP increased, indicating soil P accumulation in deeper closed depressions. Our study highlights the need to identify areas with the greatest risk of subsurface P losses to implement sub-field scale nutrient management practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1273-1285
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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