Phosphorus fate, management, and modeling in artificially drained systems

Peter J.A. Kleinman, Douglas R. Smith, Carl H. Bolster, Zachary M. Easton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Phosphorus (P) losses in agricultural drainage waters, both surface and subsurface, are among the most difficult form of nonpoint source pollution to mitigate. This special collection of papers on P in drainage waters documents the range of field conditions leading to P loss in drainage water, the potential for drainage and nutrient management practices to control drainage losses of P, and the ability of models to represent P loss to drainage systems. A review of P in tile drainage and case studies from North America, Europe, and New Zealand highlight the potential for artificial drainage to exacerbate watershed loads of dissolved and particulate P via rapid, bypass flow and shorter flow path distances. Trade-offs are identified in association with drainage intensification, tillage, cover crops, and manure management. While P in drainage waters tends to be tied to surface sources of P (soil, amendments or vegetation) that are in highest concentration, legacy sources of P may occur at deeper depths or other points along drainage flow paths. Most startling, none of the major fate-and-transport models used to predict management impacts on watershed P losses simulate the dominant processes of P loss to drainage waters. Because P losses to drainage waters can be so difficult to manage and to model, major investment are needed (i) in systems that can provide necessary drainage for agronomic production while detaining peak flows and promoting P retention and (ii) in models that can adequately describe P loss to drainage waters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-466
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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