Main content area

Nitrate leaching under maize cropping systems in Po Valley (Italy)

Perego, Alessia, Basile, Angelo, Bonfante, Antonello, De Mascellis, Roberto, Terribile, Fabio, Brenna, Stefano, Acutis, Marco
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2012 v.147 pp. 57-65
Zea mays, corn, cropping systems, drainage, farm management, fertilizer rates, intensive cropping, irrigation management, leaching, nitrates, rain, soil depth, soil profiles, soil solution, soil water, soil water content, valleys, Italy
Intensive crop production in Po Valley (Northern Italy) is associated to high risk of nitrate leaching. A multi-year monitoring of soil solution nitrogen was conducted at 6 sites under the ordinary farm management of maize crop (Zea mays L.) in order to assess NO₃–N leaching. The amount of N fertilizer (organic+mineral) varied from 209 to 801kgNha⁻¹year⁻¹. Maize biomass ranged from 15 to 32tha⁻¹ and N removal from 150 to 400kgha⁻¹. Soil water solution was sampled at five depths along the soil profile (from 0.3 to 1.5m) at time intervals of 7–30 days using suction cups. Soil water content (SWC) was measured daily by TDR at the same depths of suction cups. Soil water NO₃–N concentrations varied from 0 to 110mgL⁻¹, with the highest concentrations measured after fertilizer application. Once validated on measured SWC data, SWAP model was applied to estimate the drainage flux. Annual leaching was calculated by multiplying drainage flux by soil water NO₃–N concentration. N Leaching ranged from 14 to 321kgha⁻¹year⁻¹, according to fertilization, crop N removal, rainfall, irrigation management, and it was mainly affected by N surplus.