- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The decrease in nitrogen (N) use in agriculture led to improvement of upper groundwater quality in the Sand region of the Netherlands in the 1991-2009 period. However, still half of the farms exceeded the European nitrate standard for groundwater of 50 mg/l in the 2008-2011 period. To assure that farms will comply with the quality standard, an empirical model is used to derive environmentally sound N use standards for sandy soils for different crops and soil drainage conditions. Key parameters in this model are the nitrate-N leaching fractions (NLFs) for arable land and grassland on deep, well-drained sandy soils. NLFs quantify the fraction of the N surplus on the soil balance that leaches from the root zone to groundwater and this fraction represents N available for leaching and denitrification. The aim of this study was to develop a method for calculating these NLFs by using data from a random sample of commercial arable farms and dairy farms that were monitored in the 1991-2009 period. Only mean data per farm were available, which blocked a direct derivation of NLFs for unique combinations of crop type, soil type and natural soil drainage conditions. Results showed that N surplus leached almost completely from the root zone of arable land on the most vulnerable soils, that is, deep, well-drained sandy soils (95% confidence interval of NLF 0.80-0.99), while for grassland only half of the N surplus leached from the root zone of grassland (0.39-0.49). The NLF for grassland decreased with 0.015 units/year, which is postulated to be due to a decreased grazing and increased year-round housing of dairy cows. NLFs are positively correlated with precipitation surplus (0.05 units/100 mm for dairy farms and 0.10 units/100 mm for arable farms). Therefore, an increase in precipitation due to climate change may lead to an increase in leaching of nitrate.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Nitrate leaching in intensive grassland- and silage maize-based dairy farming systems on sandy soil is a main environmental concern. Here, statistical relationships are presented between management practices and environmental conditions and nitrate concentration in shallow groundwater (0.8 m depth) at farm, field, and point scales in the Netherlands, based on data collected in a participatory approach over a 7-yr period at one experimental and eight pilot commercial dairy farms on sandy soil. Farm milk production ranged from 10 to 24 Mg ha−1 Soil and hydrological characteristics were derived from surveys and weather conditions from meteorological stations. Statistical analyses were performed with multiple regression models. Mean nitrate concentration at farm scale decreased from 79 mg L−1 in 1999 to 63 in 2006, with average nitrate concentration in groundwater decreasing under grassland but increasing under maize land over the monitoring period. The effects of management practices on nitrate concentration varied with spatial scale. At farm scale, nitrogen surplus, grazing intensity, and the relative areas of grassland and maize land significantly contributed to explaining the variance in nitrate concentration in groundwater. Mean nitrate concentration was negatively correlated to the concentration of dissolved organic carbon in the shallow groundwater. At field scale, management practices and soil, hydrological, and climatic conditions significantly contributed to explaining the variance in nitrate concentration in groundwater under grassland and maize land. We conclude that, on these intensive dairy farms, additional measures are needed to comply with the European Union water quality standard in groundwater of 50 mg nitrate L−1 The most promising measures are omitting fertilization of catch crops and reducing fertilization levels of first-year maize in the rotation.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The European Community asks its Member States to provide a comprehensive and coherent overview of their groundwater chemical status. It is stated that simple conceptual models are necessary to allow assessments of the risks of failing to meet quality objectives. In The Netherlands two monitoring networks (one for agriculture and one for nature) are operational, providing results which can be used for an overview. Two regression models, based upon simple conceptual models, link measured nitrate concentrations to data from remote sensing images of land use, national forest inventory, national cattle inventory, fertiliser use statistics, atmospheric N deposition, soil maps and weather monitoring. The models are used to draw a nitrate leaching map and to estimate the size of the area exceeding the EU limit value in the early 1990s. The 95% confidence interval for the fraction nature and agricultural areas where the EU limit value for nitrate (50 mg/l) was exceeded amounted to 0.77-0.85 while the lower 97.5% confidence limit for the fraction agricultural area where the EU limit value was exceeded amounted to 0.94. Although the two conceptual models can be regarded as simple, the use of the models to give an overview was experienced as complex.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Dutch National Monitoring Programme for Effectiveness of the Minerals Policy (LMM) was initiated to allow detection of a statutory reduction in nitrate leaching caused by a decreasing N load. The starting point, or baseline, was taken as the nitrate concentration of the upper metre of groundwater sampled on 99 farms in the 1992-1995 period in the sandy areas of the Netherlands, where predominantly grass and maize grow. We found here that a reduction in nitrate leaching of more than 20% in future would almost certainly be detected with the LMM. Detecting downward trends due to decreasing N load will require nitrate concentrations to also be related to soil drainage, precipitation excess leading to groundwater recharge and to location. Furthermore, we found that about 16% of the N load in the Dutch sandy regions was being leached to the upper metre of groundwater in the 1992-1995 period. The critical N load in approximately 1990 for exceeding the EC limit value for nitrate, NO3, (50 mg L(-1)) in the upper metre of groundwater for the mean situation for grassland, maize and arable land in the sandy area was found to be 210 kg ha(-1) a(-1). Because manure management has been altered, the critical load found will be lower than the current critical load.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Anthropogenic increase in atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition in nature areas results in nitrate leaching to groundwater, threatening its quality. Member states of the European Union are obliged to reduce groundwater nitrate concentrations and to monitor this reduction. The relationship between N deposition and groundwater nitrate concentrations is quantified using a field survey and geographical information. Nitrate concentrations of the uppermost metre of groundwater in nature areas in the sandy regions in 1990 were related to geographical data by means of regression analysis. In this way nitrate concentrations could be explained by potential ammonia deposition, soil type, vegetation and land use. We found that about 35% of 54 kg ha(-1) a(-1) atmospheric N deposition was leached to the upper groundwater as nitrate, resulting in a mean NO3 concentration of about 30 mg L(-1). The critical N load for exceeding the EC limit value (50 mg L(-1)) in the sandy regions of The Netherlands composed of natural vegetation will be about 80 kg ha(-1) a(-1). Leaching is less than expected for nature areas but comparable with leaching of N surpluses in pastures in The Netherlands. A reduction in nitrate leaching by 25% or more can currently be detected via a new field survey.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: This paper presents the results of the Dutch monitoring program for agriculture in the clay regions for the period 1996-2000 and evaluates the monitoring strategy. A wide range of farms (25 to 85%) had a NO3--N concentration in tile drainwater higher than the EU standard of 11.3 mg/l. The low figure is related to wet winters; the high, to dry winters. Arable farms are more prone to NO3- leaching than dairy farms. On arable farms, about 25% of the N surplus leached to groundwater and tile drainwater, on dairy farms this was about 15%. N in tile drainwater has shown to be the best indicator for monitoring the effects of farming practice changes in the clay regions. The average NO3--N concentration in tile drainwater was 18.8 and 3.2 mg/l in borehole water on farms where both were monitored. It is known that N use has a relationship with NO3- in tile drainwater and not with NH4+ and organic N. The presented results indicate that crop rotation and precipitation strongly influence NO3- concentration in tile drainwater.
- [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The Nitrate Directive of the European Communities sets goals for preventing pollution and reducing existing nitrate concentrations in groundwater. Establishment of an action program is one of the obligations Member States have, to ensure the reduction of nitrate leaching and runoff. The effectiveness of the action program by Member States must be determined by regular monitoring of such items as groundwater quality. The study documented here regarding the Dutch effort within this action program, was aimed at quantifying both the nitrate concentration in shallow groundwater of the sandy regions of the Netherlands and the land area where the EC limit value is exceeded. Since shallow groundwater quality is influenced by variation in precipitation, nitrate concentrations were adjusted to be representative for average precipitation. Using monitoring results and geographical information, we calculated that the EC limit value (LV) of 50 mg l−1 for nitrate in groundwater was exceeded in 77–85% of the land area in the Netherlands' sandy regions. The LV was found to be exceeded in a calculated agricultural area of 890,000–940,000 ha (94–99% of total agricultural area), and a forest and heath area of 60,000–86,000 ha (21–30% of total forest and heath areas).
National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM)Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands