Evaluation of nitrate leaching risk at site and farm level

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Abstract

At the ‘De Marke’ experimental farm a dairy farm was set up with the aim of meeting environmental and economic goals. The farm management with respect to nitrogen emphasized reduction of fertilization and a cattle grazing system that should result in nitrate concentrations in the groundwater below the EC-directive level of 11.3 mg l−1nitrate-N. At six sites in six different fields of ‘De Marke’, these concentrations were monitored for 4 years. A direct comparison with the chosen limit was possible for these sites, but an evaluation of the environmental achievements of the farming system at farm level was also required. This was achieved by using simulation models and additional information about soils and field management. Based on multiple soil profile descriptions, frequency distributions of model output were generated, allowing a risk assessment for the total farm. The probability of exceeding the chosen threshold value of 11.3 mg l−1nitrate-N during the period of summer 1991-spring 1995 was 63% for the whole farm, with marked differences between years, crops and hydrological conditions.

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