Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 4, October-December 2008
Page(s) 507 - 519
Published online 30 August 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 507-519
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2008034

Effects of subsurface drip irrigation rates and furrow irrigation for cotton grown on a vertisol on off-site movement of sediments, nutrients and pesticides

A.D. Mchugh1, S. Bhattarai2, G. Lotz3 and D.J. Midmore2

1  National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD 4350, Australia
2  Centre for Plant & Water Science, Department of Molecular and Life Science Central Queensland University, Rockhampton, QLD 4702, Australia
3  Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries, Biloela Research Station, LMB 1, Biloela QLD 4715, Australia

Accepted 17 June 2008 ; published online 30 August 2008

Abstract - Subsurface drip irrigation can reduce off-farm movements of fertilizers and pollutants and improve the water use efficiency of irrigated agriculture. Here we compared the effects of furrow and subsurface drip at different irrigation rates, based on a percentage of daily crop-evapotranspiration rates (ETc), on run-off and off-site movement of suspended sediment, nutrients and pesticides from cotton crops grown on a vertisol. Our results show that furrow irrigation significantly increased suspended soil loss, of 5.26 t ha-1, compared to that of subsurface drip irrigation at 120% of ETc, of 2.53 t ha-1, whereas no erosion was recorded with deficit subsurface drip irrigation. Off-site movement of nitrogen in furrow, of 18.63 kg ha-1, was five times greater than subsurface drip irrigation at 120% ETc. It was much less with 105% ETc (0.37 kg ha-1) and 90% ETc (0.15 kg ha-1), and absent for 75% and 50% of ETc. Phosphorus loss from furrow, of 778 g ha-1, was greater than for the wetter subsurface drip treatments that gave 23 g ha-1 for 90% ETc and 19 g ha-1 for 120% ETc. No P loss was recorded from drier subsurface drip irrigation rates. Herbicides such as atrazine and diuron were applied in the year prior to the experiment, but considerable amounts were recorded in furrow run-off in both years, but only at 90 and 120% ETc subsurface drip irrigation in the first year. Concentrations of applied herbicide residues in the runoff exceeded the minimum threshold level for 99% species protection and, although the total amount of herbicide movement was higher in furrow, at times the concentration was greater for wetter subsurface drip irrigation run-off. Residues of insecticides, such as endosulphan applied in a previous year and dimethoate applied in the current years, were recorded in runoff from subsurface drip at 120% and furrow irrigation. Their concentrations in each year exceeded minimum threshold level. Subsurface drip irrigation at 75% ETc offered the best trade-off between off-site run-off, erosion and pesticide movement and yield and water use efficiency.

Key words: Furrow / subsurface drip / run-off / erosion / herbicide / nitrogen / phosphorus

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008