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Potential phosphorus losses from grassland soils irrigated with dairy factory wastewater

Abstract

Applying phosphorus (P)-rich wastewater to land can significantly enrich P in topsoil and consequently increase the risk of P losses in surface runoff and leaching. We collected 654 samples (0–7.5, 7.5–15, and 15–30 cm depths) of wastewater-irrigated and non-irrigated soils at seven sites across New Zealand to assess the potential P mobility in irrigated soils. The risk of P loss to surface runoff was tested by water extractable P (WEP) whereas the risk of P loss by leaching was tested by calcium chloride extractable P (CaCl2–P). These environmental P tests are rarely analysed; hence, a published relationship was used to determine if the risk of P losses could be predicted using anion storage capacity (ASC) and Olsen P, two agronomic tests used in New Zealand. The magnitude of WEP and CaCl2-P could be predicted using the published relationship, but only in non-irrigated soils. Additionally, the mixed model analysis that compared soils and irrigated treatments showed that wastewater-irrigated soils had a greater pH, WEP and CaCl2–P concentration to 30 cm depth. However, in both irrigated and non-irrigated soils a change point or threshold in ASC was found that could be used to show an increased likelihood of enhanced P leaching (as CaCl2–P) to deeper layers. In addition, the WEP and CaCl2-P thresholds, can be used to signal the need for management changes to decrease the risk of P losses to surface water and groundwater.

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Gustavo Boitt, Zachary Simpson, Florencia De Lucca, and Phuong Nguyen for their help during the soil sampling. We also thank Alasdair Noble and Dean O’Connell for advice on statistical analysis. Funding for this study was provided by Fonterra and the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge via the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (contract C10X1507).

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Correspondence to R. W. McDowell.

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Lizarralde, C.A., McDowell, R.W., Condron, L.M. et al. Potential phosphorus losses from grassland soils irrigated with dairy factory wastewater. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst 121, 69–84 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-021-10165-2

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Keywords

  • Anion storage capacity
  • Effluent
  • Land application
  • Leaching
  • Surface runoff