Impacts of subsurface tile drainage on age-concentration dynamics of inorganic nitrogen in soil

Dong K. Woo, Praveen Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We explore the impacts of tile drains in agricultural fields on the coupled age and concentration dynamics of nitrate, immobile ammonium, mobile ammonia and ammonium, and nonreactive tracers such as chloride.We implement two mobile interacting pore domains to capture matrix and preferential flow paths in a coupled ecohydrology and biogeochemistry model, Dhara. We apply this model to an agricultural farm that utilizes a corn-soybean rotation in the Midwestern United States located in the Intensively Managed Landscapes Critical Zone Observatory. In general, we observe both low concentration and age of nitrate in the areas that are classified as topographic depressions even with the presence of tile drains. Also, an increase in the age of mobile ammonia/ammonium is observed after installing tile drains. This is in contrast to the cases for nitrate, immobile ammonium, and nonreactive tracer. These results arise because the depletion of mobile ammonia/ammonium due to tile drainage causes a high mobility flux from immobile ammonium to mobile ammonia/ammonium, which also carries a considerable amount of relatively old age of nitrogen from immobile ammonium to mobile ammonia/ammonium. These results illustrate how storm event scale dynamics impact spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability of the efflux, which helps in disentangling the complexity of nitrogen dynamics in the soil. This understanding can contribute to precision agriculture for nitrogen applications to reduce environmental impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1470-1489
Number of pages20
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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