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Losses of nitrogen in surface runoff from a plantation horticulture farm in coastal Queensland, Australia.

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Stork, P.R., Lyons, D.J. and Bell, M.J. (2009) Losses of nitrogen in surface runoff from a plantation horticulture farm in coastal Queensland, Australia. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 47 (6). pp. 565-573.


Article Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SR08238


Surface losses of nitrogen from horticulture farms in coastal Queensland, Australia, may have the potential to eutrophy sensitive coastal marine habitats nearby. A case-study of the potential extent of such losses was investigated in a coastal macadamia plantation. Nitrogen losses were quantified in 5 consecutive runoff events during the 13-month study.

Irrigation did not contribute to surface flows. Runoff was generated by storms at combined intensities and durations that were 20–40 mm/h for >9 min. These intensities and durations were within expected short-term (1 year) and long-term (up to 20 years) frequencies of rainfall in the study area. Surface flow volumes were 5.3 ± 1.1% of the episodic rainfall generated by such storms. Therefore, the largest part of each rainfall event was attributed to infiltration and drainage in this farm soil (Kandosol). The estimated annual loss of total nitrogen in runoff was 0.26 kg N/ha.year, representing a minimal loading of nitrogen in surface runoff when compared to other studies.

The weighted average concentrations of total sediment nitrogen (TSN) and total dissolved nitrogen (TDN) generated in the farm runoff were 2.81 ± 0.77% N and 1.11 ± 0.27 mg N/L, respectively. These concentrations were considerably greater than ambient levels in an adjoining catchment waterway. Concentrations of TSN and TDN in the waterway were 0.11 ± 0.02% N and 0.50 ± 0.09 mg N/L, respectively. The steep concentration gradient of TSN and TDN between the farm runoff and the waterway demonstrated the occurrence of nutrient loading from the farming landscapes to the waterway. The TDN levels in the stream exceeded the current specified threshold of 0.2–0.3 mg N/L for eutrophication of such a waterway. Therefore, while the estimate of annual loading of N from runoff losses was comparatively low, it was evident that the stream catchment and associated agricultural land uses were already characterised by significant nitrogen loadings that pose eutrophication risks. The reported levels of nitrogen and the proximity of such waterways (8 km) to the coastline may have also have implications for the nearshore (oligotrophic) marine environment during periods of turbulent flow.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Crop and Food Science
Additional Information:© CSIRO.
Keywords:Nitrate; ammonium; eutrophication; macadamia; phosphorus sugarcane sediments.
Subjects:Plant culture > Horticulture. Horticultural crops
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Soils. Soil science
Live Archive:01 Apr 2010 06:00
Last Modified:03 Feb 2023 05:28

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