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The Role of Field‐Scale Management on Soil and Surface Runoff C/N/P Stoichiometry

Douglas R. Smith, Helen P. Jarvie, R. Daren Harmel, Rick L. Haney
Journal of environmental quality 2019 v.48 no.5 pp. 1543-1548
agricultural runoff, base flow, carbon, fertilizer application, fields, land use, mineral fertilizers, nitrogen, pastures, phosphorus, poultry manure, soil, soil nutrients, soil sampling, stoichiometry, water quality, watersheds, Texas
Agricultural runoff is an important contributor to water quality impairment. This study was conducted to evaluate the potential role of field‐scale management on carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry in soils and runoff from agricultural fields. Cultivated and pasture fields at the Riesel watersheds in central Texas were used for this analysis, and nutrients were transformed to evaluate relative to the Redfield ratio (106 C/16 N/1 P). Using the Redfield ratio, all soil samples were P depleted relative to C and N. The majority of stormflow and baseflow runoff samples contained 9 to 19% Redfield N relative to C and P. Shifting from inorganic fertilizer application to poultry litter as a fertilizer source resulted in increased absolute C, N, and P concentrations in stormflow and baseflow runoff. Increasing rates of poultry litter application increased the Redfield P relative to Redfield C, whereas Redfield N remained relatively constant at roughly 9 to 11% in stormflow runoff from cultivated fields. This study shows how land use and management can affect C/N/P stoichiometry in stormflow and baseflow runoff. CORE IDEAS: The C/N/P stoichiometry in soil and runoff samples from fields was compared. Soil samples were P depleted relative to N and C. Runoff samples were N depleted relative to P and C. Runoff from pastures had lower C and P concentrations than cultivated fields. High poultry litter rate increased runoff Redfield P while decreasing Redfield C.