Browsing Crops, Environment & Land Use Programme by Funder "Department of Agriculture, Food and the MArine"
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Phosphorus and nitrogen losses from temperate permanent grassland on clay-loam soil after the installation of artificial mole and gravel mole drainageMole (M) and gravel-mole (GM) drainage systems improve the permeability of soils with high clay contents. They collect and carry away infiltrating water during episodic rainfall events. Characterisation of nutrient fluxes (concentration and flows) in overland flow (OF) and in mole drain flow (MF) across sequential rainfall events is important for environmental assessment of such drainage systems. The objective of this study is to assess the impact of drainage systems on soil nutrient losses. Three treatments were imposed on grazed permanent grassland on a clay loam soil in Ireland (52°30′N, 08°12′W) slope 1.48%: undrained control (C), mole drainage (M) and gravel mole drainage (GM). Plots (100 m × 15 m) were arranged in a randomized complete block design with four replicated blocks. Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) concentrations in OF, MF and groundwater (GW) were measured from each plot over 15 consecutive rainfall events. The results showed that M and GM (P < 0.05) deepened the watertable depth and decreased OF. M and GM increased losses of nitrate-N (22%) and ammonium-N (14%) in GW. Nitrate-N concentrations from all the flow pathways (mean and standard error (s.e.): 0.99 s.e. 0.10 mg L−1) were well below the 11.3 mg L−1 threshold for drinking water. Ammonium-N concentrations from all the flow pathways (mean: 0.64 s.e. 0.14 mg L−1) exceeded drinking water quality standards. On the other hand M and GM lowered total P losses (mean annual losses from C, M and GM: 918, 755 and 853 s.e. 14.1 g ha−1 year−1) by enhancing soil P sorption. Hence M and GM can be implemented on farms under similar management to that described in the present study with a minor impact on N (increased concentration on averaged 18% to GW) and P (reduced by on avenged 114 g ha−1 year−1).