The Midwest has large riverine exports of nitrogen (N), with the largest flux per unit area to the Mississippi River system coming from Iowa and Illinois. We used historic and current data to estimate N inputs, outputs, and transformations for Illinois where human activity (principally agriculture and associated landscape drainage) have had a dominant impact. Presently, approximately 800,000 Mg of N is added each year as fertilizer and another 420,000 Mg is biologically fixed, primarily by soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.). These annual inputs are greater than exports in grain, which results in surplus N throughout the landscape. Rivers within the state export approximately 50% of this surplus N, mostly as nitrate, and the remainder appears to be denitrified or temporarily incorporated into the soil organic matter pool. The magnitude of N losses for 1880, 1910, 1950, and 1990 are compared. Initial cultivation of the prairies released large quantities of N (approximately 500,000 Mg N year(-1)), and resulted in riverine N transport during the late 19th century that appears to have been on the same order of magnitude as contemporary N losses. Riverine flux was estimated to have been at a minimum in about 1950, due to diminished net mineralization and low fertilizer inputs. Residual fertilizer N from corn (Zea mays L.), biological N fixed by soybean, short-circuiting of soil water through artificial drainage, and decreased cropping-system diversity appear to be the primary sources for current N export.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Environmental Science(all)