Monitoring of nitrate leaching in sandy soils: comparison of three methods

J Environ Qual. 2007 May 25;36(4):953-62. doi: 10.2134/jeq2006.0292. Print Jul-Aug 2007.


Proper N fertilizer and irrigation management can reduce nitrate leaching while maintaining crop yield, which is critical to enhance the sustainability of vegetable production on soils with poor water and nutrient-holding capacities. This study evaluated different methods to measure nitrate leaching in mulched drip-irrigated zucchini, pepper, and tomato production systems. Fertigation rates were 145 and 217 kg N ha(-1) for zucchini; 192 and 288 kg N ha(-1) for pepper; and 208 and 312 kg N ha(-1) for tomato. Irrigation was either applied at a fixed daily rate or based on threshold values of soil moisture sensors placed in production beds. Ceramic suction cup lysimeters, subsurface drainage lysimeters and soil cores were used to access the interactive effects of N rate and irrigation management on N leaching. Irrigation treatments and N rate interaction effects on N leaching were significant for all crops. Applying N rates in excess of standard recommendations increased N leaching by 64, 59, and 32%, respectively, for pepper, tomato, and zucchini crops. Independent of the irrigation treatment or nitrogen rate, N leaching values measured from the ceramic cup lysimeter-based N leaching values were lower than the values from the drainage lysimeter and soil coring methods. However, overall nitrate concentration patterns were similar for all methods when the nitrate concentration and leached volume were relatively low.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Fertilizers / analysis
  • Nitrates / analysis*
  • Soil / analysis*
  • Vegetables / growth & development
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrates
  • Soil
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical