Nutrient Concentrations and Stable Isotopes of Runoff from a Midwest Tile-Drained Corn Field

Benjamin Paul Wilkins, Dongkook Woo, Jianghanyang Li, Greg Michalski, Praveen Kumar, Jessica L. Conroy, Donald Allen Keefer, Laura Keefer, Timothy O. Hodson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Tile drains are a common crop drainage device used in Midwest agroecosystems. While efficient at drainage, the tiles provide a quick path for nutrient runoff, reducing the time available for microbes to use nutrients (e.g., NO3- and PO43-) and reduce export to riverine systems. Thus, understanding the effects of tile drains on nutrient runoff is critical to achieve nutrient reduction goals. Here we present isotopic and concentration data collected from tile drain runoff of a corn field located near Monticello, IL. Tile flow samples were measured for anion concentrations and stable isotopes of H2O and NO3-, while precipitation was measured for dual isotopes of H2O. Results demonstrate early tile flow from rain events have a low Cl- concentration (<20ppm) with water isotopic values reflecting precipitation, indicating preferential flow (>60% contribution) in the beginning of the hydrograph. As flow continues H2O isotopic values reflect pre-event water (ground and soil water), and Cl- concentrations increase representing a greater influence by matrix flow (60-90% contribution). Nitrate concentrations change dramatically, especially during the growing season, and do not follow a similar trend as the conservative Cl-, often decreasing days before, which represents missing nitrate in the upper surface portion of the soil. Nitrate isotopic data shows significant changes in 15N (4‰) and 18O (4‰) during individual hydrological events, representing that in addition to plant uptake and leaching, considerate NO3- is lost through denitrification. It is notable, that throughout the season d15N and d18O of nitrate change significantly representing that seasonally, substantial denitrification occurs.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAGU Fall Meeting, New Oreleans 11-15 Dec. 2017
StatePublished - 2017


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