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Phosphorus loss and speciation in overland flow from a plantation horticulture catchment and in an adjoining waterway in coastal Queensland, Australia

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Stork, P. R. and Lyons, D. J. (2012) Phosphorus loss and speciation in overland flow from a plantation horticulture catchment and in an adjoining waterway in coastal Queensland, Australia. Soil Research, 50 (6). pp. 515-525.


Article Link: https://doi.org/10.1071/SR12042

Publisher URL: https://www.publish.csiro.au/paper/SR12042


Phosphorus (P) in overland flow from horticulture farms in coastal Queensland, Australia, could eutrophy coastal freshwater and marine habitats environments nearby. The potential for such eutrophication was investigated in a coastal macadamia plantation under commercial production. During the 13-month study, P losses in overland flow were quantified in a 0.24-ha farm catchment with a 3.1% gradient, during five consecutive storm events. These events were within expected short- and long-term episodic rainfall frequencies and intensities. Runoff occurred when such storms generated between 20–40 mm/h of rainfall for >9 min. Calculated annual losses of total P were 0.32 kg/ha.year, comprising dissolved inorganic P (DIP, 0.28 kg/ha.year), particulate P (0.03 kg/ha.year), and dissolved organic P (0.01 kg/ha.year). DIP represented 88% of all losses and this was attributed to excessive fertilisation and untimely applications. Losses of total P were generally higher than those reported in comparable studies.Concentrations of DIP in runoff were 20–200-fold higher than those found in other coastal catchments in Queensland. High concentrations of DIP were present in the topsoil of the non-fertilised, inter-row areas of the farm catchment and this was attributed to transfer and deposition of DIP from adjacent fertilised tree beds during storm flow. Therefore, it can be expected that farm runoff will be enriched with DIP from these areas for an indeterminate period despite any future remediation to fertiliser management. The weighted average of DIP in farm runoff was 2.01 mg/L, whereas it was 0.005 mg/L in a catchment stream bordering the farm, showing a steep concentration gradient between the two ecosystem compartments. Together with nitrogen (N) losses in runoff, reported previously, an N : P molar ratio of 2 : 1 was contained in the farm runoff. This was well below the growth-limiting threshold for aquatic organisms, as determined by the Redfield ratio of 16 : 1 (N : P). The entry of nutrient-enriched farm runoff, as detailed in this study, into the catchment stream and the proximity of such waterways (8 km) to the coastline may also have implications for the near-shore (oligotrophic) marine environment during periods of storm flow. Altogether, this work revealed the high risk of eutrophication from farming landscapes such as the one under study.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Keywords:eutrophication, macadamia, runoff, ortho-phosphate.
Subjects:Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agricultural chemistry. Agricultural chemicals
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Agriculture and the environment
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Methods and systems of culture. Cropping systems
Agriculture > Agriculture (General) > Fertilisers
Plant culture > Fruit and fruit culture > Nuts
Agriculture > By region or country > Australia > Queensland
Live Archive:03 Feb 2023 05:36
Last Modified:03 Feb 2023 05:36

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