Nitrate is a major groundwater inorganic contaminant that is mainly due to fertilizer leaching. Compost amendment can increase soils' organic substances and thus promote denitrification in intensively cultivated soils. In this study, two agricultural plots located in the Padana plain (Ferrara, Italy) were monitored and modeled for a period of 2.7 years. One plot was initially amended with 30 t/ha of compost, not tilled, and amended with standard fertilization practices, while the other one was run with standard fertilization and tillage practices. Monitoring was performed continuously via soil water probes (matric potential) and discontinuously via auger core profiles (major nitrogen species) before and after each cropping season. A HYDRUS-1D numerical model was calibrated and validated versus observed matric potential and nitrate, ammonium, and bromide (used as tracers). Model performance was judged satisfactory and the results provided insights on water and nitrogen balances for the two different agricultural practices tested here. While water balance and retention time in the vadose zone were similar in the two plots, nitrate leaching was less pronounced in the plot amended with compost due to a higher denitrification rate. This study provides clear evidence that compost addition and no-tillage (conservation agriculture) can diminish nitrate leaching to groundwater, with respect to standard agricultural practices.
Modeling soil nitrate accumulation and leaching in conventional and conservation agriculture cropping systems / Colombani, N.; Mastrocicco, M.; Vincenzi, F.; Castaldelli, G.. - In: WATER. - ISSN 2073-4441. - ELETTRONICO. - 12:6(2020), p. 1571. [10.3390/W12061571]