Evaluation of phosphorus transport in surface runoff from packed soil boxes

J Environ Qual. 2004 Jul-Aug;33(4):1413-23. doi: 10.2134/jeq2004.1413.


Evaluation of phosphorus (P) management strategies to protect water quality has largely relied on research using simulated rainfall to generate runoff from either field plots or shallow boxes packed with soil. Runoff from unmanured, grassed field plots (1 m wide x 2 m long, 3-8% slope) and bare soil boxes (0.2 m wide and 1 m long, 3% slope) was compared using rainfall simulation (75 mm h(-1)) standardized by 30-min runoff duration (rainfall averaged 55 mm for field plots and 41 mm for packed boxes). Packed boxes had lower infiltration (1.2 cm) and greater runoff (2.9 cm) and erosion (542 kg ha(-1)) than field plots (3.7 cm infiltration; 1.8 cm runoff; 149 kg ha(-1) erosion), yielding greater total phosphorus (TP) losses in runoff. Despite these differences, regressions of dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) in runoff and Mehlich-3 soil P were consistent between field plots and packed boxes reflecting similar buffering by soils and sediments. A second experiment compared manured boxes of 5- and 25-cm depths to determine if variable hydrology based on box depth influenced P transport. Runoff properties did not differ significantly between box depths before or after broadcasting dairy, poultry, or swine manure (100 kg TP ha(-1)). Water-extractable phosphorus (WEP) from manures dominated runoff P, and translocation of manure P into soil was consistent between box types. This study reveals the practical, but limited, comparability of field plot and soil box data, highlighting soil and sediment buffering in unamended soils and manure WEP in amended soils as dominant controls of DRP transport.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Environment Design
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Phosphorus / analysis*
  • Rain
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Pollution / prevention & control


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants
  • Phosphorus