Soil phosphorus, management practices, and their relationship to phosphorus delivery in the Iowa Clear Lake agricultural watershed

J Environ Qual. 2003 Nov-Dec;32(6):2140-9. doi: 10.2134/jeq2003.2140.


Clear Lake is on Iowa's list of impaired water bodies because of high P concentration. This study assessed soil-test phosphorus (STP), management practices, and P loads from its agricultural watershed. Management practice histories and STP for eight basins were surveyed in 1999. Soil samples (15-cm depth) were analyzed for STP with agronomic [Bray P1 (BP), Olsen (OP), Mehlich 3 (M3P) and environmental [iron oxide-impregnated paper (FeP) and water extraction (WP)] tests. Total phosphorus (TP) concentrations in water discharge from five basins were measured during two years, and TP loads were measured for two basins. The agronomic P tests showed that 46 to 83% (depending on the test) of the area tested above optimum for crops. Correlations among tests were high for OP, M3P, and FeP (r > 0.96) and lower for BP and WP (r = 0.88-0.93). Moldboard- and chisel-plow tillage predominated (82% of the area). Applied P (mainly fertilizer) averaged 15 kg P ha(-1) yr(-1), and 40% of the high-testing area (M3P test) was being fertilized. The mean annual water TP concentration across five basins was 275 to 474 microg L(-1). The two-year mean TP loads for the two gauged basins were 1504 and 1510 g P ha(-1) yr(-1). Water TP concentration increased linearly with increasing STP. Relationships were stronger for M3P and FeP (R2 = 0.96-0.97 for annual means and 0.77-0.79 for storm-flow events) than for BP or WP (R2 = 0.88-0.91 and 0.59-0.69, respectively). Improving P and soil conservation practices in high-testing areas could reduce P loads to the lake.

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Fresh Water
  • Humans
  • Iowa
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Soil
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Phosphorus