Linking land use with nitrate loading in receiving waters by integrating field experimentation and process-based modeling

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University of New Brunswick


Intensive agriculture in Atlantic Canada threatens aquatic ecosystems. To balance productivity with environmental conservation, farmers use best management practices (BMPs). Reliable data on BMP effects at field and watershed scales are crucial for decision-making. This study examined the impact of crop rotation and land use on nitrate loading. Objectives were: i.) studying field-scale nitrogen dynamics and potato yield under conventional (PBC) and alternative (PSB) rotations in PEI; ii.) refining baseflow estimation in PEI; iii.) assessing land use effects on nitrate loading via the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT); iv.) evaluating PSB rotation's effectiveness at a watershed scale. Results: i.) PSB rotation increased yields and reduced soil nitrate; ii.) incorporating groundwater level data improved baseflow estimation; iii.) potato rotation land contributed to 88% of nitrate loading in the Dunk River Watershed iv.) PSB rotation reduced nitrate load by 18.4%, showing red clover's significance. These findings aid Atlantic Canada's watershed management.