Reducing Nitrogen Loss in Subsurface Tile Drainage Water with Managed Drainage and Polymer-Coated Urea in a River Bottom Soil


Poorly-drained, river bottom soils can be high corn (Zea mays L.) yielding environments, but saturated soil conditions often reduce corn yields. Wabash soils located in river bottoms in Northeast Missouri have not been traditionally tile drained due to high clay content which requires narrow tile drain spacings. Increased land prices in the region have increased interest in tile draining poorly-drained bottom land soils to increase corn yields which could have a deleterious effect on water quality. The objectives of the three-year study were to determine whether use of managed subsurface drainage (MD) in combination with a controlled release N fertilizer could reduce the annual amount of NO3--N loss through tile drainage water compared to free subsurface drainage (FD) with a non-coated urea application. Annual NO3--N loss through tile drainage water with FD ranged from 28.3 to 90.1 kg·N·ha-1. Nitrogen fertilizer source did not affect NO3--N loss through tile drainage water, which was likely due to limited corn uptake over the three-year study due to adverse weather conditions. Averaged over three years, MD reduced tile water drained 52% and NO3--N loss 29% compared to FD. Reduction in NO3--N loss through tile drainage water with MD compared to FD was due to reduced tile flow during the non-cropping period. Annual flow-weighted mean concentration of NO3--N in the tile water was 5.8 mg·N·L-1 with FD and 8.1 mg·N·L-1 with MD. Tile draining river bottom soils at this location for continuous corn production may not pose a health risk over the evaluated duration.

Share and Cite:

Nash, P. , Nelson, K. and Motavalli, P. (2014) Reducing Nitrogen Loss in Subsurface Tile Drainage Water with Managed Drainage and Polymer-Coated Urea in a River Bottom Soil. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 6, 988-997. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2014.611093.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Watson, F.C. (1979) Soil survey for Knox, Monroe, and Shelby Counties, Missouri. United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, U.S. Gov’t Printing Off., 8-20.
[2] University of Missouri Extension (2009) Farm Land Values for Missouri Counties. University of Missouri.
[3] United States Environmental Protection Agency (1992) The National Water Quality Inventory. The 1992 Report to Congress. USEPA, Washington DC.
[4] Fausey, N.R., Brown, L.C., Belcher, H.W. and Kanwar, R.S. (1995) Drainage and Water Quality in Great Lakes and Cornbelt States. J. Irrig. Drain Eng., 121, 283-288.
[5] Gilliam, J.W., Baker, J.L. and Reddy, K.R. (1999) Water Quality Effects of Drainage in Humid Regions. In Skaggs, R.W. and Van Schilfgaarde, J., Eds., Agricultural Drainage. Agron. Monogr. 38. ASA, CSSA, and SSSA, Wisconsin, 801-830.
[6] Burkart, M.R. and James, D.E. (1999) Agricultural-Nitrogen Contributions to Hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Journal of Environmental Quality, 28, 850-859.
[7] United States Environmental Protection Agency (2009) National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. USEPA.
[8] Sims, J.T., Simard, R.R. and Joern, B.C. (1998) Phosphorus Loss in Agricultural Drainage: Historical Perspective and Current Research. Journal of Environmental Quality, 27, 277-293.
[9] Adviento-Borbe, M.A., Kaye, J.P., Bruns, M.A., McDaniel, M.D., McCoy, M. and Harkcom S. (2010) Soil Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Emissions in Long-Term Maize-Based Cropping Systems. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 74, 1623-1634.
[10] Gast, R.G., Nelson, W.W. and Randall, G.W. (1978) Nitrate Accumulation in Soils and Loss in Tile Drainage Following Nitrogen Applications to Continuous Corn. Journal of Environmental Quality, 7, 258-261.
[11] Baker, J.L. and Johnson, H.P. (1981) Nitrate-Nitrogen in Tile Drainage as Affected by Fertilization. Journal of Environmental Quality, 10, 519-522.
[12] Randall, G.W. and Vetsch, J.A. (2005) Nitrate Losses in Subsurface Drainage from a Corn-Soybean Rotation as Affected by Fall and Spring Application of Nitrogen and Nitrapyrin. Journal of Environmental Quality, 34, 590-597.
[13] Drury, C.F., McKenney, D.J., Findlay, W.I. and Gaynor, J.D. (1993) Influence of Tillage and Nitrate Loss in Surface Runoff and Tile Drainage. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 57, 797-802.
[14] Drury, C.F., Tan, C.S., Rynolds, W.D., Welacky, T.W., Oloya, T.O. and Gaynor, J.D. (2009) Managing Tile Drainage, Subirrigation, and Nitrogen Fertilization to Enhance Crop Yields and Reduce Nitrate Loss. Journal of Environmental Quality, 38, 1193-1204.
[15] Evans, R.O., Skaggs, R.W. and Gilliam, J.W. (1995) Controlled Versus Conventional Drainage Effects on Water Quality. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 121, 271-276.
[16] Gilliam, J.W., Skaggs, R.W. and Weed, S.B. (1979) Drainage Control to Diminish Nitrate Loss from Agricultural Fields. Journal of Environmental Quality, 8, 137-142.
[17] Evans, R.O., Skaggs, R.W. and Gilliam, J.W. (1990) Management Practice Effects on Water Quality. In: Harris, S.C., Ed., Proceedings of the 1990 National Conference, Irrigation and Drainage Division, ASCE, 182-191.
[18] Fogiel, A. and Belcher, H.W. (1991) Water Quality Impacts of Watertable Management Systems Annual Report. Dep. Agric. Eng., Michigan State University, Lansing.
[19] Fujinuma, R., Balster, N.J. and Norman, J.M. (2009) An Improved Model of Nitrogen Release for Surface-Applied Controlled-Release Fertilizer. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 73, 2043-2050.
[20] Nash, P.R., Nelson, K.A., Motavalli, P.P. and Meinhardt, C.G. (2012) Effects of Polymer-Coated Urea Application Ratios and Dates on Wheat and Subsequent Double-Crop Soybean. Agronomy Journal, 104, 1074-1084.
[21] Nelson, K.A., Motavalli, P.P. and Dudenhoeffer, C.J. (2014) Cropping System Affects Polymer-Coated Urea Release and Corn Yield Response in Claypan Soils. Journal of Agronomy and Crop Science, 200, 54-65.
[22] Noellsch, A.J., Motavalli, P.P., Nelson, K.A. and Kitchen, N.R. (2009) Corn Response to Conventional and Slow-Release Nitrogen Fertilizers Across a Claypan Landscape. Agronomy Journal, 101, 607-614.
[23] Nelson, K.A. and Motavalli, P.P. (2013) Nitrogen Source, Drainage, and Irrigation Affects Corn Yield Response in a Claypan Soil. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 29, 875-884.
[24] Nash, P.R. (2014) Utilization of Managed Subsurface Drainage Systems to Increase Corn and Forage Yields and Reduce Nitrogen Loss in Poorly-Drained, Upland and Bottomland Soils. Dissertation, University of Missouri, Columbia.
[25] Nathan, M., Stecker, J. and Sun, Y. (2006) Soil Testing in Missouri: A Guide for Conducting Soil Tests in Missouri. University of Missouri.
[26] Chun, J.A. and Cooke, R.A. (2008) Technical Note: Calibrating Agridrain Water Level Control Structures Using Generalized Weir and Orifice Equations. Applied Engineering in Agriculture, 24, 595-602.
[27] SAS Institute (2013) SAS 9.3. SAS Inst., Cary.
[28] Hernandez-Ramirez, G., Brouder, S.M., Ruark, M.D. and Turco, R.F. (2011) Nitrate, Phosphate, and Ammonium Loads at Subsurface Drains: Agroecosystems and Nitrogen Management. Journal of Environmental Quality, 40, 1229-1240.
[29] Jaynes, D.B., Colvin, T.S., Karlen, D.L., Cambardella, C.A and Meek, D.W. (2001) Nitrate Loss in Subsurface Drainage as Affected by Nitrogen Fertilizer Rate. Journal of Environmental Quality, 30, 1305-1314.
[30] Qi, Z., Helmers, M.J., Christianson, R.D. and Pederson, C.H. (2011) Nitrate-Nitrogen Losses through Subsurface Drainage under Various Agricultural Land Covers. Journal of Environmental Quality, 40, 1578-1585.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.