Seasonal Dynamics in Runoff Generation, Flowpaths and Phosphorus Mobilization From Reduced-till Agricultural Fields in Ontario, Canada

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 8:45 AM
Merrin L Macrae1, Chris van Esbroeck1, Richard Brunke2 and Kevin McKague3, (1)University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada, (2)Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, London, ON, Canada, (3)Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Woodstock, ON, Canada
Reduced tillage systems used in agriculture have been shown to decrease losses of particulate phosphorus (P), but may increase the risk of dissolved P transport in some landscapes. Most of our knowledge of P losses from agricultural systems is based on observations made during the frost-free season and little is known about winter processes. Given the magnitude of the spring freshet in many regions, it is important to characterize P dynamics during this period. Discharge and P transport in overland flow and subsurface (tile) drainage were monitored at three reduced-till fields in southern Ontario, Canada for 18 months to (1) quantify runoff and P loads from fields; (2) characterize seasonality in the relative contributions of tile drainage and overland flow to runoff and P loads, and (3) demonstrate variable responses among different event types. Transport pathways were active throughout the non-growing season (NGS) and this period accounted for the majority of annual P loads over the study period. Drainage tiles were the dominant hydrologic pathway from fields throughout the study period, but were a small source of P when compared to P loss in overland flow. Overland flow was predominantly observed during winter thaws when ground frost was present. However, the magnitude and speciation of P losses during individual winter events were variable, and, were governed by a combination of antecedent conditions and precipitation characteristics. Given the importance of the NGS to annual P losses, we suggest that management steps should be taken to minimize the risk of losses during this period.