Nitrate retention at depth under sugarcane in Far North Queensland Wet Tropics
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Nitrogen mass-balance studies for sugarcane grown on Ferrosols (Krasnozem) in the Far North Queensland (FNQ) wet tropics have shown 30 to 50 kg N/ha/yr of the applied fertiliser+N leached below the root-zone (<0.75 m) as nitrate-N compared to <10 kg/ha/yr transported in surface runoff. Because, large quantities of N (guesstimate of ≈ 3,000 tonnes per annum for the catchment) was leaching below the root-zone, major emphasis has been placed on its fate, particularly in relation to off-site land and water resources and ecosystem health issues and more specifically that related to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The leached nitrate could be adsorbed at anion exchange sites, denitrify, enter streams/rivers through lateral-flow and/or aquifers by deep drainage. Because the ferrosols in general possess the capacity to absorb and retain nitrate-N at anion exchange (AE) sites, there exists the potential reduced risk of contamination of off-site water bodies, including GBR. The issues address in the project include (i) the assessment of sub-surface nitrate loading in Ferrosols of north Queensland wet tropical coast (ii) measurement of those physical and chemical properties, which influence nitrate mobility and retention (iii) provide from inferred processes, estimates of future nitrate movement to ground and surface waters (iv) propose management strategy(s) with regional industry group(s) to address the nitrate problem (v) improve industry and community understanding of water and nutrient dynamics and the potential environmental impacts. Soil cores to 12.5 m depth were taken from 28 sites distributed across the catchment, representing 9 Ferrosol soil types under sugarcane cultivation for at least 50 yr and from rainforest. Depth incremented (0.5-1m) sub-samples from the cores were analysed for nitrate- N, cation- (CEC) and anion- (AEC) exchange capacities, pH, exchangeable cations (Ca, Mg, K., Na), soil organic C (SOC), electrical conductivity (EC), sulphate (SO4 2-) and chloride (CI-), Nitrate-N concentration under sugarcane ranged from 0 to 72.5 mg/kg compared with 0 to 0.31 mg/kg under rainforest. The average N-load, in 12 m depth, across the 19 Pin Gin soil type was 1550 kg/ha compared with 185 kg/ha unde4r 8 non-Pin Gin and 11 kg/ha in rainforest and most of the retention in the catchment and the source of this nitrate was that leached below the rootzone. Compared to the current average N-load, the average maximum potential nitrate retention capacity (MPNRC) of 10.8 t/ha for the Pin Gin and 4.7 t/ha for the non-Pin Gin indicates these soils still possess large capacity to adsorb and retain nitrate in profiles.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this itemhttp://hdl.handle.net/11079/13207
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