• Effect of an agri-environmental measure on nitrate leaching from a beef farming system in Ireland

      Richards, Karl G.; Jahangir, Mohammad M. R.; Drennan, Michael J; Lenehan, J.J.; Connolly, John; Brophy, C.; Carton, Owen T. (Elsevier, 07/01/2015)
      Agricultural nitrogen (N) management remains a key environmental challenge. Improving N management is a matter of urgency to reduce the serious ecological consequences of the reactive N. Nitrate (NO3−–N) leaching was measured under suckler beef production systems stocked at two intensities: (1) intensive, 210 kg organic N ha−1 with two cut silage harvests; and (2) rural environmental protection scheme (REPS), 170 kg organic N ha−1 with one cut silage harvest. Three replicate plots of each treatment were instrumented with ceramic cups (8 per plot), randomly placed within each plot at a depth of 1 m to collect soil solution for NO3−–N at 50 kPa suction to collecting vessels one week prior to sampling. Samples were taken on a total of 53 sampling dates over 3 winter drainage periods (2002/03, 2003/04 and 2004/05). Over the course of the experiment the mean annual soil solution NO3−–N concentration exceeded the MAC twice out of 15 means (5 treatments over 3 years). The REPS grazing and silage sub treatments had significantly lower mean annual soil solution total oxidized N (TON) concentrations than the respective intensive treatments in years 2 and 3. Annual total NO3−–N losses over the three years in intensive and REPS systems ranged from 55 to 71 and 15 to 20 kg N ha−1, respectively. Mean N surpluses in intensive and REPS systems were 210 and 95 kg ha−1, respectively with the corresponding mean N inputs of 272 and 124 kg N ha−1. The reduction in N inputs under the REPS system results in lower N leaching losses and contributed to a significant reduction in pressures on water quality.