Now showing items 1-20 of 45

    • The role of colloids and other fractions in the below-ground delivery of phosphorus from agricultural hillslopes to streams

      Fresne, Maëlle; Jordan, Phil; Daly, Karen; Fenton, Owen; Mellander, Per-Erik; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship programme (Elsevier, 2022-01-31)
      Colloids can be important for facilitated transfer of phosphorus (P) to groundwater (GW) and contribute to elevated P concentrations later delivered to surface water. To assess the role of colloidal P and other P fractions in delivery processes via below-ground pathways, this study investigated the influence of catchment and flow event characteristics on particulate (>450 nm), medium-sized colloidal (200–450 nm) and fine (<200 nm) P fractions in two agricultural hillslopes (TG, TA). Total and dissolved P fractions and their derivatives were also monitored. Samples in both stream and GW were taken weekly during baseflow conditions and every 2 h during storm conditions. Higher frequency monitoring of streamflow was also conducted to delineate hydrological flowpaths and determine P loads and hysteresis processes. Results indicated that during baseflow fine P was dominant in the streams (80 to 100 % of total P) and in shallow GW in TA (83 to 96 %) whereas in TG shallow GW was dominated by PP (55 to 96 %) possibly due to colloidal Fe-P complexes. Similarly, in TG shallow GW was dominated by PP (79 to 81 %) during high flow events. During a larger flow event (within the period of land fertilization) the quickflow pathway (24 % of total flow) delivered 3.2 g ha−1 of PP which was dominant in the stream (44 to 68 %). A smaller flow event (within the period of prohibited land fertilization) facilitated delivery of P via deeper baseflow pathways (87 % of total flow) as fine reactive P (1.3 g ha−1), also dominant in the stream (73 to 78 %). The research indicated a very limited presence of medium-sized colloidal P but a large presence of fine P that may contribute to elevating P concentrations above environmental thresholds. Further work should constrain the controlling factors for colloidal P presence/absence and also on the extent and speciation of coarser and finer fractions in the hillslope to stream continuum.
    • Quantifying MCPA load pathways at catchment scale using high temporal resolution data

      Atcheson, Kevin; Mellander, Per-Erik; Cassidy, Rachel; Cook, Sally; Floyd, Stewart; McRoberts, Colin; Morton, Phoebe A.; Jordan, Phil; Department for the Economy (Northern Ireland); European Union (Elsevier, 2022-07-15)
      Detection of the agricultural acid herbicide MCPA (2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid) in drinking water source catchments is of growing concern, with economic and environmental implications for water utilities and wider ecosystem services. MCPA is poorly adsorbed to soil and highly mobile in water, but hydrological pathway processes are relatively unknown at the catchment scale and limited by coarse resolution data. This understanding is required to target mitigation measures and to provide a framework to monitor their effectiveness. To address this knowledge gap, this study reports findings from river discharge and synchronous MCPA concentration datasets (continuous 7 hour and with additional hourly sampling during storm events) collected over a 7 month herbicide spraying season. The study was undertaken in a surface (source) water catchment (384 km2—of which 154 km2 is agricultural land use) in the cross-border area of Ireland. Combined into loads, and using two pathway separation techniques, the MCPA data were apportioned into event and baseload components and the former was further separated to quantify a quickflow (QF) and other event pathways. Based on the 7 hourly dataset, 85.2 kg (0.22 kg km−2 by catchment area, or 0.55 kg km−2 by agricultural area) of MCPA was exported from the catchment in 7 months. Of this load, 87.7 % was transported via event flow pathways with 72.0 % transported via surface dominated (QF) pathways. Approximately 12 % of the MCPA load was transported via deep baseflows, indicating a persistence in this delayed pathway, and this was the primary pathway condition monitored in a weekly regulatory sampling programme. However, overall, the data indicated a dominant acute, storm dependent process of incidental MCPA loss during the spraying season. Reducing use and/or implementing extensive surface pathway disconnection measures are the mitigation options with greatest potential, the success of which can only be assessed using high temporal resolution monitoring techniques.
    • Benchmarking a decade of holistic agro-environmental studies within the Agricultural Catchments Programme

      Mellander, Per-Erik; Lynch, M.B.; Galloway, J.; Žurovec, O.; McCormack, Michele; O’Neill, M.; Hawtree, D.; Burgess, E.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Teagasc, 2022-02-26)
      Meeting sustainable food production challenges requires efficient ways to manage nutrients and mitigate the losses of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) to water. Future nutrient management therefore requires a clearer understanding of the relative influence of soils, geology, farm practice, landscape and weather on the propensity for nutrients to be lost to water. Within the Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP), environmental, agronomic and socioeconomic data have been gathered since 2009, using the same experimental methodology in five meso-scale river catchments, and one karst spring zone, covering a range of soils, landscapes and farming systems. The ACP has contributed to a better understanding of nutrient mobilisation and transfer pathways and highlighted the influence of the physical and chemical environment as well as agricultural and meteorological drivers on diffuse nutrient loss to ground and surface waters. The environmental quality standards were breached for N and/or P in some of the catchments, but for different reasons and not always clearly linked to the source pressures within the catchment. There are clearly no one-size-fits-all solutions for mitigation of nutrient losses to water. A better understanding of the underlying processes is required to identify critical source areas, to select mitigation strategies, when to implement them and to build realistic expectations of their impact. Sustainability in an agricultural setting is not confined to environmental issues, but also includes social, economic and innovative aspects. To maximise farmers’ uptake of environmental measures, the actions should encompass all these aspects of sustainability. Integrated knowledge transfer is key.
    • Using a multi-dimensional approach for catchment scale herbicide pollution assessments

      Khan, Majid Ali; Costa, Fabiola Barros; Fenton, Owen; Jordan, Phil; Fennell, Chris; Mellander, Per-Erik; European Union; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 727450; 727450 (Elsevier, 2020-07-25)
      Worldwide herbicide use in agriculture, whilst safeguarding yields also presents water quality issues. Controlling factors in agricultural catchments include both static and dynamic parameters. The present study investigated the occurrence of herbicides in streams and groundwater in two meso-scale catchments with contrasting flow controls and agricultural landuse (grassland and arable land). Using a multi-dimensional approach, streams were monitored from November 2018 to November 2019 using Chemcatcher® passive sampling devices and groundwater was sampled in 95 private drinking water wells. The concentrations of herbicides were larger in the stream of the Grassland catchment (8.9–472.6 ng L−1) dominated by poorly drained soils than in the Arable catchment (0.9–169.1 ng L−1) dominated by well-drained soils. Incidental losses of herbicides during time of application and low flows in summer caused concentrations of MCPA, Fluroxypyr, Trichlorpyr, Clopyralid and Mecoprop to exceeded the European Union (EU) drinking water standard due to a lack of dilution. Herbicides were present in the stream throughout the year and the total mass load was higher in winter flows, suggesting a persistence of primary chemical residues in soil and sub-surface environments and restricted degradation. Losses of herbicides to the streams were source limited and influenced by hydrological conditions. Herbicides were detected in 38% of surveyed drinking water wells. While most areas had concentrations below the EU drinking water standard some areas with well-drained soils in the Grassland catchment, had concentrations exceeding recommendations. Individual wells had concentrations of Clopyralid (619 ng L−1) and Trichlorpyr (650 ng L−1). Despite the study areas not usually associated with herbicide pollution, and annual mass loads being comparatively low, many herbicides were present in both surface and groundwater, sometimes above the recommendations for drinking water. This whole catchment assessment provides a basis to develop collaborative measures to mitigate pollution of water by herbicides.
    • The Beast from the East: impact of an atypical cold weather event on hydrology and nutrient dynamics in two Irish catchments

      Vero, S.E.; McDonald, N.T.; McGrath, G.; Mellander, Per-Erik (Compuscript Ltd.Teagasc, 2020-11-21)
      A historic lack of continuous stream nutrient monitoring at the catchment scale limits understanding of the effects of snowstorms. The most significant snowstorm since 1985, nicknamed “the Beast from the East”, occurred in February–March 2018. High-frequency stream outlet monitoring in two close but hydrologically and agriculturally contrasting catchments (<1,200 ha) captured phosphorus (total and reactive), total oxygenated nitrogen (TON), temperature and discharge dynamics during and after the event. The grassland catchment consists of poorly drained gley soils and exhibits overland flow pathways, while the arable catchment consists of well-drained brown earths and is dominated by subsurface pathways. Nitrate (NO3-N) concentrations were initially elevated (3.50 and 7.89 mg/L for poorly drained grassland and well-drained arable catchments, respectively) before becoming diluted by meltwater. Total reactive phosphorus (TRP) displayed a distal (anti-clockwise) concentration-discharge hysteresis in the poorly drained grassland catchment suggesting low mobilisation from the soil. Conversely, the well-drained arable catchment displayed proximal (clockwise) hysteresis, indicative of the mobilisation from stream and bank sediment. These relatively infrequent snow events behave similarly to heavy rainfall as regards nutrient losses, albeit subject to a time-lag induced by the speed of snowmelt and the soil moisture deficit (SMD) prior to snowfall. Antecedent land management is crucial to mitigate risk. The current absence of records and analyses of catchment response, particularly nutrient dynamics, to atypical cold weather events in Ireland limits understanding of their effects on water quality. The present study provides the first such baseline information from which land management strategies and the implications for attaining environmental targets can be explored.
    • Using a multi-dimensional approach for catchment scale herbicide pollution assessments

      Khan, Majid Ali; Costa, Fabiola Barros; Fenton, Owen; Jordan, Phil; Fennell, Chris; Mellander, Per-Erik; European Union; 727450 (Elsevier BV, 2020-12)
      Worldwide herbicide use in agriculture, whilst safeguarding yields also presents water quality issues. Controlling factors in agricultural catchments include both static and dynamic parameters. The present study investigated the occurrence of herbicides in streams and groundwater in two meso-scale catchments with contrasting flow controls and agricultural landuse (grassland and arable land). Using a multi-dimensional approach, streams were monitored from November 2018 to November 2019 using Chemcatcher® passive sampling devices and groundwater was sampled in 95 private drinking water wells. The concentrations of herbicides were larger in the stream of the Grassland catchment (8.9–472.6 ng L−1) dominated by poorly drained soils than in the Arable catchment (0.9–169.1 ng L−1) dominated by well-drained soils. Incidental losses of herbicides during time of application and low flows in summer caused concentrations of MCPA, Fluroxypyr, Trichlorpyr, Clopyralid and Mecoprop to exceeded the European Union (EU) drinking water standard due to a lack of dilution. Herbicides were present in the stream throughout the year and the total mass load was higher in winter flows, suggesting a persistence of primary chemical residues in soil and sub-surface environments and restricted degradation. Losses of herbicides to the streams were source limited and influenced by hydrological conditions. Herbicides were detected in 38% of surveyed drinking water wells. While most areas had concentrations below the EU drinking water standard some areas with well-drained soils in the Grassland catchment, had concentrations exceeding recommendations. Individual wells had concentrations of Clopyralid (619 ng L−1) and Trichlorpyr (650 ng L−1). Despite the study areas not usually associated with herbicide pollution, and annual mass loads being comparatively low, many herbicides were present in both surface and groundwater, sometimes above the recommendations for drinking water. This whole catchment assessment provides a basis to develop collaborative measures to mitigate pollution of water by herbicides.
    • Assessments of Composite and Discrete Sampling Approaches for Water Quality Monitoring

      Cassidy, Rachel; Jordan, Phil; Bechmann, Marianne; Kronvang, Brian; Kyllmar, Katarina; Shore, Mairead (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2018-04-12)
      Achieving an operational compromise between spatial coverage and temporal resolution in national scale river water quality monitoring is a major challenge for regulatory authorities, particularly where chemical concentrations are hydrologically dependent. The efficacy of flow-weighted composite sampling (FWCS) approaches for total phosphorus (TP) sampling (n = 26–52 analysed samples per year), previously applied in monitoring programmes in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and which account for low to high flow discharges, was assessed by repeated simulated sampling on high resolution TP data. These data were collected in three research catchments in Ireland over the period 2010–13 covering a base-flow index range of 0.38 to 0.69. Comparisons of load estimates were also made with discrete (set time interval) daily and sub-daily sampling approaches (n = 365 to >1200 analysed samples per year). For all years and all sites a proxy of the Norwegian sampling approach, which is based on re-forecasting discharge for each 2-week deployment, proved most stable (median TP load estimates of 87–98%). Danish and Swedish approaches, using long-term flow records to set a flow constant, were only slightly less effective (median load estimates of 64–102% and 80–96%, respectively). Though TP load estimates over repeated iterations were more accurate using the discrete approaches, particularly the 24/7 approach (one sample every 7 h in a 24 bottle sampler - median % load estimates of 93–100%), composite load estimates were more stable, due to the integration of multiple small samples (n = 100–588) over a deployment.
    • Gain in Nitrogen Yield from Grass-Legume Mixtures is Robust Over a Wide Range of Legume Proportions and Environmental Conditions

      Suter, Matthias; Finn, John; Connolly, John; Loges, Ralph; Lüscher, Andreas (Elsevier BV, 2015-08-19)
      Global food security is currently challenged and requires sustainable intensification of agriculture through initiatives that include more efficient use of nitrogen (N) and increased protein self-sufficiency through home-grown crops. Such challenges were addressed in a continental-scale field experiment conducted over three years, in which the amount of total nitrogen yield (Ntot) and the gain in N yield in mixtures as compared to grass monocultures (Ngainmix) was quantified from four-species grass-legume stands with greatly varying legume proportions. Stands consisted of monocultures and mixtures of two N2 fixing legumes and two non-fixing grasses. The amount of Ntot of mixtures was significantly greater (P ≤ 0.05) than that of grass monocultures at the majority of evaluated sites in all three years. Ntot and thus Ngainmix increased with increasing legume proportion up to one third of legumes. With higher percentages of legumes, Ntot and Ngainmix did not further increase. Thus, across sites and years, mixtures with one third proportion of legumes had 57% higher Ntot than grass monocultures and attained ∼95% of the maximum Ntot acquired by any stand. The relative N gain in mixture (Ngainmix/Ntotmix) was most severely impaired by minimum site temperature (R = 0.64, P = 0.010). Nevertheless, Ngainmix/Ntotmix was not correlated to site productivity (P = 0.500), suggesting that, within climatic restrictions, balanced grass-legume mixtures can benefit from comparable relative gains in N yield across largely differing productivity levels. We conclude that higher N output (Ntot or forage protein per unit area) can be achieved with grass-legume mixtures than with pure grass alone for a given amount of N fertilizer applied; conversely, the same N output can be achieved by mixed swards with less input of N. Therefore, the use of grass-legume mixtures can substantially contribute to resource-efficient agricultural grassland systems over a wide range of productivity levels, implying important savings in N fertilizers and greenhouse gas emissions.
    • Functional Land Management for managing soil functions: A case-study of the trade-off between primary productivity and carbon storage in response to the intervention of drainage systems in Ireland

      O'Sullivan, L.; Creamer, Rachel; Fealy, Reamonn; Lanigan, Gary; Simo, I.; Fenton, Owen; Carfrae, J.; Schulte, R.P.O.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier BV, 2015-09)
      Globally, there is growing demand for increased agricultural outputs. At the same time, the agricultural industry is expected to meet increasingly stringent environmental targets. Thus, there is an urgent pressure on the soil resource to deliver multiple functions simultaneously. The Functional Land Management framework (Schulte et al., 2014) is a conceptual tool designed to support policy making to manage soil functions to meet these multiple demands. This paper provides a first example of a practical application of the Functional Land Management concept relevant to policy stakeholders. In this study we examine the trade-offs, between the soil functions ‘primary productivity’ and ‘carbon cycling and storage’, in response to the intervention of land drainage systems applied to ‘imperfectly’ and ‘poorly’ draining managed grasslands in Ireland. These trade-offs are explored as a function of the nominal price of ‘Certified Emission Reductions’ or ‘carbon credits’. Also, these trade-offs are characterised spatially using ArcGIS to account for spatial variability in the supply of soil functions. To manage soil functions, it is essential to understand how individual soil functions are prioritised by those that are responsible for the supply of soil functions – generally farmers and foresters, and those who frame demand for soil functions – policy makers. Here, in relation to these two soil functions, a gap exists in relation to this prioritisation between these two stakeholder groups. Currently, the prioritisation and incentivisation of these competing soil functions is primarily a function of CO2 price. At current CO2 prices, the agronomic benefits outweigh the monetised environmental costs. The value of CO2 loss would only exceed productivity gains at either higher CO2 prices or at a reduced discount period rate. Finally, this study shows large geographic variation in the environmental cost: agronomic benefit ratio. Therein, the Functional Land Management framework can support the development of policies that are more tailored to contrasting biophysical environments and are therefore more effective than ‘blanket approaches’ allowing more specific and effective prioritisation of contrasting soil functions.
    • Groundwater nitrate reduction versus dissolved gas production: A tale of two catchments

      McAleer, E.B.; Coxon, C.E.; Richards, Karl G.; Jahangir, M.M.R; Grant, J.; Mellander, Per-Erik; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier BV, 2017-05-15)
      At the catchment scale, a complex mosaic of environmental, hydrogeological and physicochemical characteristics combine to regulate the distribution of groundwater and stream nitrate (NO3 −). The efficiency of NO3 − removal (via denitrification) versus the ratio of accumulated reaction products, dinitrogen (excess N2) & nitrous oxide (N2O), remains poorly understood. Groundwater was investigated in two well drained agricultural catchments (10 km2 ) in Ireland with contrasting subsurface lithologies (sandstone vs. slate) and landuse. Denitrification capacity was assessed by measuring concentration and distribution patterns of nitrogen (N) species, aquifer hydrogeochemistry, stable isotope signatures and aquifer hydraulic properties. A hierarchy of scale whereby physical factors including agronomy, water table elevation and permeability determined the hydrogeochemical signature of the aquifers was observed. This hydrogeochemical signature acted as the dominant control on denitrification reaction progress. High permeability, aerobic conditions and a lack of bacterial energy sources in the slate catchment resulted in low denitrification reaction progress (0–32%), high NO3 − and comparatively low N2O emission factors (EF5g1). In the sandstone catchment denitrification progress ranged from 4 to 94% and was highly dependent on permeability, water table elevation, dissolved oxygen concentration solid phase bacterial energy sources. Denitrification of NO3− to N2 occurred in anaerobic conditions, while at intermediate dissolved oxygen; N2O was the dominant reaction product. EF5g1 (mean: 0.0018) in the denitrifying sandstone catchment was 32% less than the IPCC default. The denitrification observations across catchments were supported by stable isotope signatures. Stream NO3 − occurrence was 32% lower in the sandstone catchment even though N loading was substantially higher than the slate catchment.
    • Predicting microbial water quality with models: Over-arching questions for managing risk in agricultural catchments

      Oliver, David M.; Porter, Kenneth D.H.; Pachepsky, Yakov A.; Muirhead, Richard W.; Reaney, Sim M.; Coffey, Rory; Kay, David; Milledge, David G.; Hong, Eunmi; Anthony, Steven G.; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2016-02)
      The application of models to predict concentrations of faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) in environmental systems plays an important role for guiding decision-making associated with the management of microbial water quality. In recent years there has been an increasing demand by policy-makers for models to help inform FIO dynamics in order to prioritise efforts for environmental and human-health protection. However, given the limited evidence-base on which FIO models are built relative to other agricultural pollutants (e.g. nutrients) it is imperative that the end-user expectations of FIO models are appropriately managed. In response, this commentary highlights four over-arching questions associated with: (i) model purpose; (ii) modelling approach; (iii) data availability; and (iv) model application, that must be considered as part of good practice prior to the deployment of any modelling approach to predict FIO behaviour in catchment systems. A series of short and longer-term research priorities are proposed in response to these questions in order to promote better model deployment in the field of catchment microbial dynamics.
    • Predicting microbial water quality with models: Over-arching questions for managing risk in agricultural catchments

      Oliver, David M.; Porter, Kenneth D.H.; Pachepsky, Yakov A.; Muirhead, Richard W.; Reaney, Sim M.; Coffey, Rory; Kay, David; Milledge, David G.; Hong, Eunmi; Anthony, Steven G.; et al. (Elsevier, 2015-12-03)
      The application of models to predict concentrations of faecal indicator organisms (FIOs) in environmental systems plays an important role for guiding decision-making associated with the management of microbial water quality. In recent years there has been an increasing demand by policy-makers for models to help inform FIO dynamics in order to prioritise efforts for environmental and human-health protection. However, given the limited evidence-base on which FIO models are built relative to other agricultural pollutants (e.g. nutrients) it is imperative that the end-user expectations of FIO models are appropriately managed. In response, this commentary highlights four over-arching questions associated with: (i) model purpose; (ii) modelling approach; (iii) data availability; and (iv) model application, that must be considered as part of good practice prior to the deployment of any modelling approach to predict FIO behaviour in catchment systems. A series of short and longer-term research priorities are proposed in response to these questions in order to promote better model deployment in the field of catchment microbial dynamics.
    • Variable response to phosphorus mitigation measures across the nutrient transfer continuum in a dairy grassland catchment

      Murphy, Paul N. C.; Mellander, Per-Erik; Melland, A. R.; Buckley, Cathal; Shore, Mairead; Shortle, Ger; Wall, David; Treacy, Mark; Shine, Oliver; Mechan, Sarah; et al. (Elsevier, 2015-04-20)
      Phosphorus (P) loss from soils to water can be a major pressure on freshwater quality and dairy farming, with higher animal stocking rates, may lead to potentially greater nutrient source pressures. In many countries with intensive agriculture, regulation of P management aims to minimise these losses. This study examined the P transfer continuum, from source to impact, in a dairy-dominated, highly stocked, grassland catchment with free-draining soils over three years. The aim was to measure the effects of P source management and regulation on P transfer across the nutrient transfer continuum and subsequent water quality and agro-economic impacts. Reduced P source pressure was indicated by: (a) lower average farm-gate P balances (2.4 kg ha−1 yr−1), higher P use efficiencies (89%) and lower inorganic fertilizer P use (5.2 kg ha−1 yr−1) relative to previous studies; (b) almost no recorded P application during the winter closed period, when applications were prohibited, to avoid incidental transfers; and (c) decreased proportions of soils with excessive P concentrations (32–24%). Concurrently, production and profitability remained comparable with the top 10% of dairy farmers nationally with milk outputs of 14,585 l ha−1, and gross margins of € 3130 ha−1. Whilst there was some indication of a response in P delivery in surface water with declines in quick flow and interflow pathway P concentrations during the winter closed period for P application, delayed baseflows in the wetter third year resulted in elevated P concentrations for long durations and there were no clear trends of improving stream biological quality. This suggests a variable response to policy measures between P source pressure and delivery/impact where the strength of any observable trend is greater closer to the source end of the nutrient transfer continuum and a time lag occurs at the other end. Policy monitoring and assessment efforts will need to be cognisant of this.
    • Future global pig production systems according to the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways

      Lassaletta, Luis; Estellés, Fernando; Beusen, Arthur; Bouwman, Lex; Calvet, Salvador; van Grinsven, Hans J.M.; Doelman, Jonathan; Stehfest, Elke; Uwizeye, Aimable; Westhoek, Henk; et al. (Elsevier, 2019-02-08)
      Global pork production has increased fourfold over the last 50 years and is expected to continue growing during the next three decades. This may have considerable implications for feed use, land requirements, and nitrogen emissions. To analyze the development of the pig production sector at the scale of world regions, we developed the IMAGE-Pig model to describe changes in feed demand, feed conversion ratios (FCRs), nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) and nitrogen excretion for backyard, intermediate and intensive systems during the past few decades as a basis to explore future scenarios. For each region and production system, total production, productive characteristics and dietary compositions were defined for the 1970–2005 period. The results show that due to the growing pork production total feed demand has increased by a factor of two (from 229 to 471Tg DM). This is despite the improvement of FCRs during the 1970–2005 period, which has reduced the feed use per kg of product. The increase of nitrogen use efficiency was slower than the improvement of FCRs due to increasing protein content in the feed rations. As a result, total N excretion increased by more than a factor of two in the 1970–2005 period (from 4.6 to 11.1 Tg N/year). For the period up to 2050, the Shared Socio-economic Pathways (SSPs) provide information on levels of human consumption, technical development and environmental awareness. The sustainability of pig production systems for the coming decades will be based not only on the expected efficiency improvements at the level of animal breeds, but also on four additional pillars: (i) use of alternative feed sources not competing with human food, (ii) reduction of the crude protein content in rations, (iii) the proper use of slurries as fertilizers through coupling of crop and livestock production and (iv) moderation of the human pork consumption.
    • Incidental nutrient transfers: Assessing critical times in agricultural catchments using high-resolution data

      Shore, Mairead; Jordan, Philip; Melland, Alice R.; Mellander, Per-Erik; McDonald, Noeleen T.; Shortle, Ger; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Elsevier, 2016-03-22)
      Managing incidental losses associated with liquid slurry applications during closed periods has significant cost and policy implications and the environmental data required to review such a measure are difficult to capture due to storm dependencies. Over four years (2010–2014) in five intensive agricultural catchments, this study used high-resolution total and total reactive phosphorus (TP and TRP), total oxidised nitrogen (TON) and suspended sediment (SS) concentrations with river discharge data to investigate the magnitude and timing of nutrient losses. A large dataset of storm events (defined as 90th percentile discharges), and associated flow-weighted mean (FWM) nutrient concentrations and TP/SS ratios, was used to indicate when losses were indicative of residual or incidental nutrient transfers. The beginning of the slurry closed period was reflective of incidental and residual transfers with high storm FWM P (TP and TRP) concentrations, with some catchments also showing elevated storm TP:SS ratios. This pattern diminished at the end of the closed period in all catchments. Total oxidised N behaved similarly to P during storms in the poorly drained catchments and revealed a long lag time in other catchments. Low storm FWM P concentrations and TP:SS ratios during the weeks following the closed period suggests that nutrients either weren't applied during this time (best times chosen) or that they were applied to less risky areas (best places chosen). For other periods such as late autumn and during wet summers, where storm FWM P concentrations and TP:SS ratios were high, it is recommended that an augmentation of farmer knowledge of soil drainage characteristics with local and detailed current and forecast soil moisture conditions will help to strengthen existing regulatory frameworks to avoid storm driven incidental nutrient transfers.
    • Improving the identification of hydrologically sensitive areas using LiDAR DEMs for the delineation and mitigation of critical source areas of diffuse pollution

      Thomas, Ian; Jordan, Philip; Mellander, Per-Erik; Fenton, Owen; Shine, Oliver; O hUallachain, Daire; Creamer, Rachel E.; McDonald, Noeleen T.; Dunlop, Paul; Murphy, Paul N. C.; et al. (Elsevier, 2016-03-12)
      Identifying critical source areas (CSAs) of diffuse pollution in agricultural catchments requires the accurate identification of hydrologically sensitive areas (HSAs) at highest propensity for generating surface runoff and transporting pollutants. A new GIS-based HSA Index is presented that improves the identification of HSAs at the sub-field scale by accounting for microtopographic controls. The Index is based on high resolution LiDAR data and a soil topographic index (STI) and also considers the hydrological disconnection of overland flow via topographic impediment from flow sinks. The HSA Index was applied to four intensive agricultural catchments (~ 7.5–12 km2) with contrasting topography and soil types, and validated using rainfall-quickflow measurements during saturated winter storm events in 2009–2014. Total flow sink volume capacities ranged from 8298 to 59,584 m3 and caused 8.5–24.2% of overland-flow-generating-areas and 16.8–33.4% of catchment areas to become hydrologically disconnected from the open drainage channel network. HSA maps identified ‘breakthrough points’ and ‘delivery points’ along surface runoff pathways as vulnerable points where diffuse pollutants could be transported between fields or delivered to the open drainage network, respectively. Using these as proposed locations for targeting mitigation measures such as riparian buffer strips reduced potential costs compared to blanket implementation within an example agri-environment scheme by 66% and 91% over 1 and 5 years respectively, which included LiDAR DEM acquisition costs. The HSA Index can be used as a hydrologically realistic transport component within a fully evolved sub-field scale CSA model, and can also be used to guide the implementation of ‘treatment-train’ mitigation strategies concurrent with sustainable agricultural intensification.
    • Linking Hydro-Geophysics and Remote Sensing Technology for Sustainable Water and Agricultural Catchment Management

      O'Leary, Dave; Fenton, Owen; Mellander, Per-Erik; Tuohy, Patrick; Brown, C.; Daly, E. (2019-05)
      The acquisition of sub-surface data for agricultural purposes is traditionally achieved by in situ point sampling in the top 2m over limited target areas (farm scale ~ km2) and time periods. This approach is inadequate for integrated regional (water catchment ~ 100 km2) scale management strategies which require an understanding of processes varying over decadal time scales in the transition zone (~ 10’s m) from surface to bedrock. With global food demand expected to increase by 100% by 2050, there are worldwide concerns that achievement of production targets will be at the expense of water quality. In order to overcome the limitations of the traditional approach, this research programme will combine airborne and ground geophysics with remote sensing technologies to access hydrogeological and soil structure information on Irish Soils at multiple spatial scales. It will address this problem in the context of providing tools for the sustainable management of agricultural intensification envisioned in Food Harvest 2020 and Food Wise 2025 and considering the EU Habitats and Water Framework Directives (WFD), Clean Air Policy and Soil Thematic Strategies. The work will use existing ground based geophysical and hydrogeological data from Teagasc Agricultural Catchment Programme (ACP) and Heavy Soil sites co-located ground and airborne electromagnetic data. Neural Networks training and Machine learning approaches will supplement traditional geophysical workflows. Work will then focus on upscaling results from ACP to WFD catchment scale. This upscaling will require modification of traditional satellite remote sensing conceptual frameworks to analyse heterogeneous, multi-temporal data streams.
    • Defining optimal DEM resolutions and point densities for modelling hydrologically sensitive areas in agricultural catchments dominated by microtopography

      Thomas, Ian; Jordan, Philip; Shine, Oliver; Fenton, Owen; Mellander, Per-Erik; Dunlop, Paul; Murphy, Paul N. C.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2016-09-16)
      Defining critical source areas (CSAs) of diffuse pollution in agricultural catchments depends upon the accurate delineation of hydrologically sensitive areas (HSAs) at highest risk of generating surface runoff pathways. In topographically complex landscapes, this delineation is constrained by digital elevation model (DEM) resolution and the influence of microtopographic features. To address this, optimal DEM resolutions and point densities for spatially modelling HSAs were investigated, for onward use in delineating CSAs. The surface runoff framework was modelled using the Topographic Wetness Index (TWI) and maps were derived from 0.25 m LiDAR DEMs (40 bare-earth points m−2), resampled 1 m and 2 m LiDAR DEMs, and a radar generated 5 m DEM. Furthermore, the resampled 1 m and 2 m LiDAR DEMs were regenerated with reduced bare-earth point densities (5, 2, 1, 0.5, 0.25 and 0.125 points m−2) to analyse effects on elevation accuracy and important microtopographic features. Results were compared to surface runoff field observations in two 10 km2 agricultural catchments for evaluation. Analysis showed that the accuracy of modelled HSAs using different thresholds (5%, 10% and 15% of the catchment area with the highest TWI values) was much higher using LiDAR data compared to the 5 m DEM (70–100% and 10–84%, respectively). This was attributed to the DEM capturing microtopographic features such as hedgerow banks, roads, tramlines and open agricultural drains, which acted as topographic barriers or channels that diverted runoff away from the hillslope scale flow direction. Furthermore, the identification of ‘breakthrough’ and ‘delivery’ points along runoff pathways where runoff and mobilised pollutants could be potentially transported between fields or delivered to the drainage channel network was much higher using LiDAR data compared to the 5 m DEM (75–100% and 0–100%, respectively). Optimal DEM resolutions of 1–2 m were identified for modelling HSAs, which balanced the need for microtopographic detail as well as surface generalisations required to model the natural hillslope scale movement of flow. Little loss of vertical accuracy was observed in 1–2 m LiDAR DEMs with reduced bare-earth point densities of 2–5 points m−2, even at hedgerows. Further improvements in HSA models could be achieved if soil hydrological properties and the effects of flow sinks (filtered out in TWI models) on hydrological connectivity are also considered.
    • Sources and Mechanisms of Low-Flow River Phosphorus Elevations: A Repeated Synoptic Survey Approach

      Vero, Sara E.; Daly, Karen M.; McDonald, Noeleen T.; Leach, Simon; Sherriff, Sophie C.; Mellander, Per-Erik; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (MDPI AG, 2019-07-18)
      High-resolution water quality monitoring indicates recurring elevation of stream phosphorus concentrations during low-flow periods. These increased concentrations may exceed Water Framework Directive (WFD) environmental quality standards during ecologically sensitive periods. The objective of this research was to identify source, mobilization, and pathway factors controlling in-stream total reactive phosphorus (TRP) concentrations during low-flow periods. Synoptic surveys were conducted in three agricultural catchments during spring, summer, and autumn. Up to 50 water samples were obtained across each watercourse per sampling round. Samples were analysed for TRP and total phosphorus (TP), along with supplementary parameters (temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and oxidation reduction potential). Bed sediment was analysed at a subset of locations for Mehlich P, Al, Ca, and Fe. The greatest percentages of water sampling points exceeding WFD threshold of 0.035 mg L−1 TRP occurred during summer (57%, 11%, and 71% for well-drained, well-drained arable, and poorly drained grassland catchments, respectively). These percentages declined during autumn but did not return to spring concentrations, as winter flushing had not yet occurred. Different controls were elucidated for each catchment: diffuse transport through groundwater and lack of dilution in the well-drained grassland, in-stream mobilization in the well-drained arable, and a combination of point sources and cumulative loading in the poorly drained grassland. Diversity in controlling factors necessitates investigative protocols beyond low-spatial and temporal resolution water sampling and must incorporate both repeated survey and complementary understanding of sediment chemistry and anthropogenic phosphorus sources. Despite similarities in elevation of P at low-flow, catchments will require custom solutions depending on their typology, and both legislative deadlines and target baselines standards must acknowledge these inherent differences.
    • A sub-field scale critical source area index for legacy phosphorus management using high resolution data

      Thomas, Ian A.; Mellander, Per-Erik; Murphy, Paul; Fenton, Owen; Shine, Oliver; Djodjic, Faruk; Dunlop, Paul; Jordan, Phil; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; et al. (Elsevier, 2016-09-25)
      Diffuse phosphorus (P) mitigation in agricultural catchments should be targeted at critical source areas (CSAs) that consider source and transport factors. However, development of CSA identification needs to consider the mobilisation potential of legacy soil P sources at the field scale, and the control of (micro)topography on runoff generation and hydrological connectivity at the sub-field scale. To address these limitations, a ‘next generation’ sub-field scale CSA index is presented, which predicts the risk of dissolved P losses in runoff from legacy soil P. The GIS-based CSA Index integrates two factors; mobile soil P concentrations (water extractable P; WEP) and a hydrologically sensitive area (HSA) index. The HSA Index identifies runoff-generating-areas using high resolution LiDAR Digital Elevation Models (DEMs), a soil topographic index (STI) and information on flow sinks and effects on hydrological connectivity. The CSA Index was developed using four intensively monitored agricultural catchments (7.5–11 km2) in Ireland with contrasting agri-environmental conditions. Field scale soil WEP concentrations were estimated using catchment and land use specific relationships with Morgan P concentrations. In-stream total reactive P (TRP) concentrations and discharge were measured sub-hourly at catchment outlet bankside analysers and gauging stations during winter closed periods for fertiliser spreading in 2009–14, and hydrograph/loadograph separation methods were used to estimate TRP loads and proportions from quickflow (surface runoff). A strong relationship between TRP concentrations in quickflow and soil WEP concentrations (r2 = 0.73) was used to predict dissolved P concentrations in runoff at the field scale, which were then multiplied by the HSA Index to generate sub-field scale CSA Index maps. Evaluation of the tool showed a very strong relationship between the total CSA Index value within the HSA and the total TRP load in quickflow (r2 = 0.86). Using a CSA Index threshold value of ≥0.5, the CSA approach identified 1.1–5.6% of catchment areas at highest risk of legacy soil P transfers, compared with 4.0–26.5% of catchment areas based on an existing approach that uses above agronomic optimum soil P status. The tool could be used to aid cost-effective targeting of sub-field scale mitigation measures and best management practices at delivery points of CSA pathways to reduce dissolved P losses from legacy P stores and support sustainable agricultural production.