5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik
- Bayreuther Graduiertenschule für Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften (BayNAT) (2)
Budget and fluxes of nitrogen in mountainous agroecosystems in a summer monsoonal climate under intensive land use
- A balanced nitrogen (N) cycle in intensively managed ecosystems is necessary as it underpins other ecosystem services. This study evaluated the agricultural practices in a typical mountainous catchment in South Korea in respect to N dynamics and their potential effect on water quality with the aim to develop options for a more sustainable catchment management.
In the 1st study, we used two approaches to calculate N budgets for the 5 key crops of the basin at the field scale. The gross and net N budgets for all crop types were found to be positive. Based on the small differences between the results of the two approaches we identified fertilizer N as well as soil Nmin as the dominant N input sources. As fertilizer N application was the major N input source (>50%), its reduction is the major scope of action for N savings at the field scale. A closely linked action is the synchronization of fertilizer N with soil Nmin. The large amount of fertilizer that is applied prior to planting (>60%) at the beginning of the monsoon season revealed that split applications could help reducing the fertilizer N additions and increase the low N use efficiencies (NUE). Based on the significant differences between gross and net N surplus for rice and bean fields, we identified the high amount of plant residues remaining after harvesting (>100 kg N ha-1) as a further factor for potential N savings. The 5 main crops accounted for over 80% of the total catchment N surplus (>400 Mg), even though their contribution to the area was only around 20%. A land use shift to perennial crops with lower N inputs was therefore found to be a possible but spatially limited chance to reduce N surpluses at the catchment scale. The comparison of catchment N surplus with stream N export revealed that 73-86% of the agricultural N surpluses were transported to water bodies in the catchment by either leaching or surface runoff.
In the 2nd study, we followed the fate of fertilizer N in a ridge and furrow (R/F) cultivation with polyethylene (PE) mulch by using 15N tracer. N leaching was simulated with Hydrus 2D. The comparison of 4 N fertilization levels (0, 150, 250 and 350 kg N ha-1) revealed that already 150 kg N ha-1 is sufficient to reach the maximal yield of radishes. Based on the low results of fertilizer N use efficiency (FNUE), we recommend two applications during the first 25 days of growth and a further application around day 50. These split applications adjusted to the plants’ needs increase the FNUE of the radish and decrease the fertilizer N losses during the growing season. However, split applications might be impractical in plastic covered R/F cultivations because mechanical equipment to apply fertilizer under the PE mulch is required. Based on the finding that 15N retention in soil and nitrate concentration in seepage water decreased similarly for ridges and furrows during the entire growing season, we conclude that the PE mulch had no significant effect on 15N retention in soil and on nitrate concentration in seepage water and did therefore not effectively protect the fertilizer in the ridges from percolation. Based on the simulation results, we found that the ridges and furrows contributed approximately an equal amount of leached N to the total amount. We therefore conclude that the PE mulch provided little protection for the fertilizer N in the ridges during heavy rainfall. N leaching amounts were further found to increase linearly with an increase in N addition rate as it is well known for R/F cultivations without PE mulch. The PE mulch did therefore not prevent the linear increase in leaching with an increase in fertilizer N addition. We summarize that without the use of additional measures such as split applications of fertilizer, the application of PE mulch in a summer monsoon climate with heavy rainfall events does not positively influence the N leaching rates.
In the 3rd study, we monitored soil water dynamics in the field and used this data set to simulate the influence of PE mulch on water fluxes with Hydrus 2D. We simulated soil water dynamics in 1) conventional flat tillage (CT); 2) R/F cultivation without PE mulched ridges (RT); and 3) R/F cultivation with PE mulched ridges (RTpm). The comparison of the simulated pressure heads during dry and wet periods revealed that the PE mulch induced significant soil moisture patterns only during the dry periods. During monsoon events, the effect of the PE mulch was dependent on the soil texture and the hydraulic conductivity. Summarizing the advantages and disadvantages of the R/F cultivation with PE mulch on sloped fields, the practice was observed to have the lowest amount of drainage water, the lowest evaporation rates but also the highest surface runoff rates. Hence, PE mulching might be assessed as a tool to reduce percolating water, but it concurrently increases water contribution to the river network by surface runoff.
Soil erosion and conservation potential of row crop farming in mountainous landscapes of South Korea
- Soils play an essential role for mankind because they provide fundamental ecosystem services required for human life, primarily for the production of food by providing the environment for plant growth. However, soils worldwide became highly threatened by human induced degradation, especially as a consequence of accelerated erosion by water during recent decades. In consideration of climate change and an increasing food demand of a rising population, there is an urgent need to conserve the soil resources by implementing effective erosion control measures for agricultural production. The effective implementation of those measures strongly depends on the specific conditions of particular regions and requires the analysis of the existing farming systems and their capability for erosion control.
Objective of this thesis is the analysis of the major agricultural practices applied for row crop cultivation in mountainous watersheds of South Korea with respect to water erosion and the identification of their conservation potential. Our first two studies analyze the subsurface flow processes, the runoff patterns, and the associated erosion rates of the widely applied plastic covered ridge-furrow system (plastic mulch), and our third study investigates the impact of herbicide applications on erosion associated with conventional and organic farming. To analyze the flow processes induced by the plastic mulch cultivation, we conducted four irrigation experiments on potato fields that represent a smooth surface, uncovered ridges, and plastic covered ridges with and without a developed crop canopy. With an automatic sprinkler, we irrigated small plots with a dye tracer solution of Brilliant Blue and potassium iodide, collected surface runoff, and excavated soil profiles to visualize the subsurface flow patterns, which were subsequently analyzed by image index functions. We found that the ridge-furrow system, especially when ridges are covered with plastic, decreased infiltration and generated high amounts of surface runoff, whereas a developed crop canopy increased infiltration due to interception and stem flow. The analyses of the subsurface flow patterns show that the plastic covered ridge-furrow system induces preferential infiltration in furrows and planting holes due to its topography and the impermeable covers, but that the impact on flow processes in the soils is relatively small compared to the impact on runoff generation. To identify the patterns of overland flow and the erosion rates associated with the plastic mulch system, we installed runoff collectors to monitor runoff and sediment transport of two potato fields with concave and convex topographies, and we applied the EROSION 3D model to compare the plastic covered ridge-furrow system to uncovered ridges and a smooth surface. We found that plastic mulch cultivation considerably increases soil erosion compared to uncovered ridges as a consequence of high amounts of surface runoff. Our results show that the ridge-furrow system concentrated overland flow on the concave field, resulting in severe gully erosion, but prevented flow accumulation and reduced erosion on the convex field, which demonstrates that the effect of this cultivation strategy is primarily controlled by the field topography and its orientation. To analyze the effects of conventional and organic farming on water erosion, we measured multiple vegetation parameters of crops and weeds of conventional and organic farms cultivating bean, potato, radish, and cabbage, and we simulated long-term soil loss rates with the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE). We found that organic farming reduced erosion for radish, as a result of an increased weed biomass due to the absence of herbicides, but that it increased erosion for potato due to lower crop coverage, presumably as a consequence of crop-weed competition or herbivory associated with the absence of agricultural chemicals. Although we demonstrated that a developed weed cover in the furrows can potentially decrease the erosion risk for row crops, our results show that the average annual erosion rates of both farming systems exceed by far any tolerable soil loss.
In consideration of the generally high soil loss found in our studies, we conclude that the applied farming practices are not capable for effective erosion control and soil conservation in this region. However, based on our findings, we could identify possible modifications of those practices that can help to reduce the risk of erosion in the future. We recommend perforated plastic covers for ridges to reduce runoff generation, and the orientation of the ridge-furrow system along the contours or towards field edges to prevent flow accumulation and gully formation. Additionally, we suggest residue mulching of furrows to protect the soil surface from overland flow, and the cultivation of winter cover crops after harvest to maintain a better soil cover throughout the year.