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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Soil type, crop and irrigation technique affect nitrogen leaching to groundwater


Many groundwater resource in California are degraded by high concentrations of nitrate, most of which was transported to the groundwater in water percolating below the root zone of agricultural fields. Factors that affect the rate of water percolation — including soil type, crop and irrigation — along with nitrogen application influence the probability of this type of groundwater degradation. UC scientists have developed several useful tools, including the Nitrogen Hazard Index (NHI) and the ENVIRO-GRO (E-G) model, for use in developing best management practices (BMPs) to achieve high crop yields while minimizing groundwater degradation. We report the results of E-G simulations that quantify the effects of irrigation, soil type and organic and inorganic nitrogen (N) application amounts to corn yield and the amount of leached N. Simulation results indicate that a nitrate management strategy that also includes water management will be more effective in reducing N loading to groundwater. The research findings are discussed in the context of the track and report concept in comparison to the BMP approach.


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