The purpose of this study was to identify the range of soil water nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate) concentrations measured at a four-foot depth from nine different land covers and cropping systems in southeast Minnesota. Results from the five-year study (2011-2015) found low concentrations of soil water nitrate, generally less than 2 mg/L, from prairie, forest and low maintenance homeowner lawn sites. Cattle pasture sites and a golf course averaged 5.1 and 3.7 mg/L, respectively. A grass field border and grassed waterway had similar concentrations and averaged between 5.9 mg/L (non-fertilized) and 8.9 mg/L (fertilized). Concentrations from the grass strips were higher than expected and likely explained by subsurface mixing of soil water between adjacent land covers. Nitrate concentrations collected from lysimeters in cultivated row crop settings were comparable to tile drained sites in Minnesota, but were highly variable and averaged 22.3 mg/L with a typical range of 8.0 to 28.0 mg/L. Corn fields with alfalfa in the rotation had nitrate concentrations averaging 6.6 mg/L which were 70% lower when compared to sites without perennials. When considered within the context of this study’s limitations, data collected from the Southeast Lysimeter Network could serve as a useful educational tool for farmers, crop advisors, rural homeowners and groundwater advisory groups.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

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