Performance of grass barriers and filter strips under interrill and concentrated flow

J Environ Qual. 2006 Oct 27;35(6):1969-74. doi: 10.2134/jeq2006.0073. Print 2006 Nov-Dec.


Effectiveness of grass barriers and vegetative filter strips (FS) for reducing transport of sediment and nutrients in runoff may depend on runoff flow conditions. We assessed the performance of (1) switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) barriers (0.7 m) planted above fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) filter strips under interrill (B-FS) and concentrated flow (CF-B-FS), and (2) fescue alone under interrill (FS) and concentrated flow (CF-FS) for reducing runoff, sediment, nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) loss from fallow plots on a Mexico silt loam. We compared exclusively the performance of barriers and filter strips separately under interrill and concentrated flow. Runoff and sediment were sampled at 1 m above and at 0.7, 4, and 8 m below the downslope edge of the sediment source area. Filter strips under interrill flow reduced 80% and those under concentrated flow reduced 72% of sediment at 0.7 m (P < 0.01). With the addition of supplemental runoff simulating runoff from a larger sediment source area, FS reduced 80%, but CF-FS reduced only 60% of sediment. The FS reduced organic N and NO(3)-N by an additional 50% (P < 0.01) more than CF-FS at 0.7 m. Although the effectiveness of both treatments increased with increasing width, CF-FS removed less sediment than FS alone at 8 m (P < 0.04). In contrast, barriers above filter strips under interrill and concentrated flow were equally effective at 8 m; decreasing runoff by 34%, sediment by 99%, and nutrients by 70%. Thus, barriers combined with FS can be an effective alternative to FS alone for sites where concentrated flows may occur.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Festuca / metabolism*
  • Filtration
  • Geologic Sediments / analysis*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Mexico
  • Nitrates / metabolism
  • Nitrogen / metabolism
  • Organic Chemicals / metabolism
  • Panicum / metabolism*
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollution / prevention & control*


  • Nitrates
  • Organic Chemicals
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen