Spatial variation of soil phosphorus within a drainage ditch network

Robert E. Vaughan, Brian A. Needelman, Peter J.A. Kleinman, Arthur L. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Agricultural drainage ditches serve as P transport pathways from fields to surface waters. Little is known about the spatial variation of P at the soil-water interface within ditch networks. We quantified the spatial variation of surficial (0-5 cm) soil P within vegetated agricultural ditches on a farm in Princess Anne, MD with an approximately 30-yr history of poultry litter application. Ditch soils from 10 ditches were sampled at 10-m intervals and analyzed for acid ammonium oxalate-extractable P, Fe, Al (Pox, Feox, Alox), and pH. These variables were spatially autocorrelated. Oxalate-P (min = 135 mg kg-1, max = 6919 mg kg -1, mean = 700 mg kg-1) exhibited a high standard deviation across the study area (overall 580 mg kg-1) and within individual ditches (maximum 1383 mg kg-1). Several ditches contained distinct areas of high Pox, which were associated with either point- or nonpoint-P sources. Phosphorus was correlated with Alox or Fe ox within specific ditches. Across all ditches, Alox (r = 0.80; p < 0.001) was better correlated with Pox than was Fe ox (r = 0.44; p < 0.001). The high level of spatial variation of soil P observed in this ditch network suggests that spatially distributed sampling may be necessary to target best management practices and to model P transport and fate in ditch networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1096-1104
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007

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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