Eutrophication from Agricultural Sources : Phosphorus Dynamics in Grazed Grassland

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Resource or Project Abstract

The loss of phosphorus (P) from agricultural sources is one of the main causes of eutrophication in P-limited freshwater ecosystems. High losses have been shown from grazed grasslands in particular. The aim of this research was to investigate the pools and fluxes of P in grazed grassland in Ireland. This aim was achieved by laboratory characterisation of P forms and fractions in grassland soils and fresh cattle dung, through field trials set up to examine changes in the P content of dung-pats during decomposition and the effects of decomposing dung-pats on soil P fractions, and by the characterisation of P in overland flow from grazed plots using rainfall simulation. Phosphorous 31 nuclear magnetic resonance (31P NMR) spectroscopy analysis revealed the presence of inorganic orthophosphate, orthophosphate monoesters (mostly as myo-inositol hexakisphosphate), orthophosphate diesters (as phospholipids and DNA), and pyrophosphates, in a grassland soil; the relative proportion of these forms in the dung was also dependent on fertiliser P application. Large variation was found in the P characteristics of dung from beef cattle, in particular the proportions of the organic and inorganic fractions, explained mostly by the effect of fertiliser P application. There was a clear relationship between the P content in the diet of the grazing animals and the P content in the dung. The decomposition of dung-pats at different times of year was explained by varying contributions of rainfall, temperature and biological activity, although all dung-pats had decomposed fully within 90 days of deposition. Significant P was released from the dung-pats (between 19 and 31%) during the first seven days of decomposition because of leaching associated with high water losses from the dung-pats. Physical incorporation of the dung-pat was the principal P release mechanism later in the trial. The decomposing dung-pats had highly significant effects on the concentrations of all soil P fractions (total P, inorganic P, microbial biomass P, and Morgan?s P [Pm]) except for the organic P fraction. Pm concentrations increased by between 200 and 450% owing to the presence of dung-pats. The presence of grazing animals increased the concentrations of organic P lost to overland flow. 31P NMR spectroscopy analysis revealed the presence of inorganic orthophosphate, orthophosphate monoesters, orthophosphate diesters, phosphonates, and pyrophosphates in the overland flow from grazed plots, while only inorganic orthophosphate, orthophosphate monoesters, and pyrophosphates were found in the overland flow from non-grazed plots. These results offer insights into the P dynamics within grazed grassland and the potential P losses from grazed grassland.

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Contact Information for This Resource

Dr. David Bourke

Dr. Isabelle Kurz
Environmental Protection Agency

Dr. Hubert Tunney

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Author(s)Bourke, D. Kurz, I. Tunney, H.
Title Of WebsiteSecure Archive For Environmental Research Data
Publication InformationEutrophication from Agricultural Sources : Phosphorus Dynamics in Grazed Grassland
Name of OrganisationEnvironmental Protection Agency Ireland
Electronic Address or URL
Unique Identifier513e1727-74a4-102b-aa08-55a7497570d3
Date of AccessLast Updated on SAFER: 2024-07-23

An example of this citation in proper usage:

Bourke, D. Kurz, I. Tunney, H.   "Eutrophication from Agricultural Sources : Phosphorus Dynamics in Grazed Grassland". Associated datasets and digitial information objects connected to this resource are available at: Secure Archive For Environmental Research Data (SAFER) managed by Environmental Protection Agency Ireland (Last Accessed: 2024-07-23)


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Access Information For This Resource

SAFER-Data Display URL
Resource KeywordsPhosphorus Nitrogen Eutrophication Potassium Suspended Solids Grazed Pastures
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project Code2000-LS-2.1.2c-M2
EPA/ERTDI/STRIVE Project ThemeWater Quality
Resource Availability: Any User Can Download Files From This Resource
Limitations on the use of this ResourceLater on...
Number of Attached Files (Publicly and Openly Available for Download): 2
Project Start Date Thursday 1st August 2002 (01-08-2002)
Earliest Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Thursday 1st August 2002 (01-08-2002)
Most Recent Recorded Date within any attached datasets or digital objects Saturday 31st July 2004 (31-07-2004)
Published on SAFERFriday 16th May 2008 (16-05-2008)
Date of Last EditFriday 16th May 2008 at 15:41:37 (16-05-2008)
Datasets or Files Updated On Friday 16th May 2008 at 15:41:37 (16-05-2008)

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Geographical and Spatial Information Related To This Resource

Description of Geographical Characteristics of This Project or Dataset
The three study sites (Cowlands, Red House Field and Dairy Farm) were located at the Teagasc Environmental Research Centre, Johnstown Castle, Wexford, Ireland (302404/116584 UTM) at an altitude of 60?70 m above sea level. The research centre covers an area of about 390 ha with the three sites located less than 1.5 km from a meteorological station. The land use of the three sites was set up as permanent pasture. Mean annual rainfall during the experimental period was 1032 mm with a mean annual temperature of 10.6 oC as measured at the meteorological station.

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Supplementary Information About This Resource

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Lineage information about this project or dataset
The objective of this large-scale integrated research project, commissioned in 2000, was to supply scientific data to underpin appropriate actions or measures that might be used in the implementation of national policy for reducing nutrient losses to waters from agricultural
sources. The research, including desk, laboratory, field plot, farm and catchment studies, was conducted by teams in Teagasc, the National Universities of Dublin, Cork and Galway, Trinity College Dublin, University of Limerick and
the University of Ulster at Coleraine. The current study was one of three subprojects in LS-
2.1.2, which had the remit of investigating grazed
grasslands as a source of and pathway for P loss to water.
Supplementary Information
All soil samples were collected using the standard Teagasc bucket sampler to a depth of 100 mm. All soils were sieved to < 2 mm before analysis. Dried soils (oven dried at 40 oC or air dried in a laboratory) were stored in cardboard boxes
at room temperature prior to chemical analysis. Field moist soils were stored at 4 oC in a cold room until analysis. Total P, Mg and K were measured on dung samples after digestion in a mixture of concentrated H2SO4, H2O2 and
selenium (catalyst) at 370 oC for 90 minutes. Dung Pt was read on a Vista-MPX ICP-OES. Statistical analysis was carried out using MS Excel and
SPSS (v12). Summary statistics for all data were

Other people involved in this project (and listed as co-authors)
Paul Dowding,David Jeffrey
Department of Botany,
School of Natural Sciences,
Trinity College,
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