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Water quality of surface runoff and lint yield in cotton under furrow irrigation in Northeast Arkansas

M. Arlene A. Adviento-Borbe, Brittany D. Barnes, Oluwayinka Iseyemi, Amanda M. Mann, Michele L. Reba, William J. Robertson, Joseph H. Massey, Tina G. Teague
Science of the total environment 2018 v.613-614 pp. 81-87
Gossypium hirsutum, alkalinity, ammonium, ammonium nitrogen, conservation practices, cotton, electrical conductivity, furrow irrigation, furrows, growing season, hardness, irrigation water, lint yield, nitrate nitrogen, nitrite nitrogen, nitrites, nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, nutrients, pH, phosphorus, pollution, runoff, urea, urea ammonium nitrate, water quality, waterways, Arkansas
Use of furrow irrigation in row crop production is a common practice through much of the Midsouth US and yet, nutrients can be transported off-site through surface runoff. A field study with cotton (Gossypium hirsutum, L.) was conducted to understand the impact of furrow tillage practices and nitrogen (N) fertilizer placement on characteristics of runoff water quality during the growing season. The experiment was designed as a randomized complete block design with conventional (CT) and conservation furrow tillage (FT) in combination with either urea (URN) broadcast or 32% urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) injected, each applied at 101kgNha⁻¹. Concentrations of ammonium (NH₄-N), nitrate (NO₃-N), nitrite (NO₂-N), and dissolved phosphorus (P) in irrigation runoff water and lint yields were measured in all treatments. The intensity and chemical form of nutrient losses were primarily controlled by water runoff volume and agronomic practice. Across tillage and fertilizer N treatments, median N concentrations in the runoff were <0.3mgNL⁻¹, with NO₃-N being relatively the highest among N forms. Concentrations of runoff dissolved P were <0.05mgPL⁻¹ and were affected by volume of runoff water. Water pH, specific electrical conductivity, alkalinity and hardness were within levels that common to local irrigation water and less likely to impair pollution in waterways. Lint yields averaged 1111kgha⁻¹ and were higher (P-value=0.03) in FT compared to CT treatments. Runoff volumes across irrigation events were greater (P-value=0.02) in CT than FT treatments, which increased NO₃-N mass loads in CT treatments (394gNO₃-Nha⁻¹season⁻¹). Nitrate-N concentrations in CT treatments were still low and pose little threat to N contaminations in waterways. The findings support the adoption of conservation practices for furrow tillage and N fertilizer placement that can reduce nutrient runoff losses in furrow irrigation systems.