Journal of environmental engineering-asce vol:128 issue:4 pages:376-383
Some of the highest losses of nitrate to surface waters come from drained agricultural land. This research studied, for Belgian farming conditions, (i) the effect of subsurface drainage density on nitrate losses and (ii) the economics of nitrate losses, using the nitrogen version of the pro-ram DRAINMOD-N. DRAINMOD was used to simulate the performance of the drainage system of the Hooibeckhoeve experiment, situated in the sandy region of the Kempen (Belgium) for a 14-year (1985-1998) period, A continuous cropping with maize was assumed. Daily NO3-N losses were predicted for a range of drain spacings and depths, two drainage strategies (conventional and controlled), and three fertilizer application rates (225, 275, and 325 kg N ha(-1)). Losses of N in subsurface drainage were assumed to occur almost entirely in the NO3-N form. Losses of organic and inorganic N in the form of NO3-N in surface runoff are small and were neglected. Hydrologic results indicated that increasing drain spacing or decreasing drain depth reduces drainage discharge while it increases runoff. The use of controlled drainage reduces subsurface drainage and increases runoff. Results also revealed that increasing the drain spacing or decreasing the drain depth reduces nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) drainage losses and net mineralization, while increasing denitrification and runoff losses, Controlled drainage caused a predicted reduction in drainage losses and an increase in denitrification and runoff losses. The optimal combination of drain density and management is one that maximizes profits and minimizes environmental impacts. Simulated results indicated that NO3-N losses to the environment could be substantially reduced by reducing the drainage density below the level required for maximum profits based on grain sales. The study concluded that, if the environmental objective is of importance equal to or greater than profits, drainage systems can be designed and managed to reduce NO3-N losses while still providing an acceptable profit.