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J Environ Qual. 2006 May 31;35(4):1101-9. Print 2006 Jul-Aug.

Surface and subsurface phosphorus losses from fertilized pasture systems in Ohio.

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USDA-ARS, P.O. Box 488, Coshocton, OH 43812, USA.


Phosphorus is an essential plant nutrient and critical to agricultural production, but it is also a problem when excessive amounts enter surface waters. Summer rotational grazing and winter feeding beef pasture systems at two fertility levels (56 and 28 kg available P ha(-1)) were studied to evaluate the P losses from these systems via surface runoff and subsurface flow using eight small (0.3-1.1 ha), instrumented watersheds and spring developments. Runoff events from a 14-yr period (1974-1988) were evaluated to determine the relationships between event size in mm, total dissolved reactive phosphorous (TDRP) concentration, and TDRP transport. Most of the TDRP transported was via surface runoff. There were strong correlations (r2 = 0.45-0.66) between TDRP transport and event size for all watersheds, but no significant (P = 0.05) correlations between TDRP concentration and event size. Flow-weighted average TDRP concentrations from the pasture watersheds for the 14-yr period ranged from 0.64 to 1.85 mg L(-1) with a few individual event concentrations as high as 85.7 mg L(-1). The highest concentrations were in events that occurred soon after P fertilizer application. Average seasonal flow-weighted TDRP concentrations for subsurface flow were < 0.05 mg L(-1). Applying P fertilizer to pastures in response to soil tests should keep TDRP concentrations in subsurface flow at environmentally acceptable levels. Management to reduce runoff and avoidance of P fertilizer application when runoff producing rainfall is anticipated in the next few days will help reduce the surface losses of P.

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