Leaching of dissolved phosphorus from tile-drained agricultural areas

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

We investigated leaching of dissolved phosphorus (P) from 45 tile-drains representing animal husbandry farms in all regions of Denmark. Leaching of P via tile-drains exhibits a high degree of spatial heterogeneity with a low concentration in the majority of tile-drains and few tile-drains (15% in our investigation) having high to very high concentration of dissolved P. The share of dissolved organic P (DOP) was high (up to 96%). Leaching of DOP has hitherto been a somewhat overlooked P loss pathway in Danish soils and the mechanisms of mobilization and transport of DOP needs more investigation. We found a high correlation between Olsen-P and water extractable P. Water extractable P is regarded as an indicator of risk of loss of dissolved P. Our findings indicate that Olsen-P, which is measured routinely in Danish agricultural soils, may be a useful proxy for the P leaching potential of soils. However, we found no straight-forward correlation between leaching potential of the top soil layer (expressed as either degree of P saturation, Olsen-P or water extractable P) and the measured concentration of dissolved P in the tile-drain. This underlines that not only the source of P but also the P loss pathway must be taken into account when evaluating the risk of P loss.

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