Agricultural fields with above optimum soil phosphorus (P) are considered to pose risks to water quality and especially when those areas are coincident with hydrologically sensitive areas (HSAs) that focus surface runoff pathways. This is a challenge to manage in areas of agricultural intensity in surface water dominated catchments where water quality targets have to be met. In this study, a soil P survey of 13 sub-catchments and 7693 fields was undertaken in a 220 km2 catchment. HSAs were also determined as the top 25th percentile risk from a runoff routing model that used a LiDAR digital elevation model and soil hydraulic conductivity properties. Distributions of these spatial data were compared with river soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentration measured fortnightly over one year. The results showed that 41% of fields exceeded the agronomic optimum for soil P across the sub-catchments. When compared with the available water quality data, the results indicated that the high soil P carrying capacity area of the sub-catchments was 15%. Combining high soil P and HSA, the carrying capacity area of the sub-catchments was 1.5%. The opportunities to redistribute these risks were analysed on fields with below optimum soil P and where HSA risk was also minimal. These ranged from 0.4% to 13.8% of sub-catchment areas and this limited potential, unlikely to fully reduce the P pressure to over-supplied fields, would need to be considered alongside addressing this over-supply and also with targeted HSA interception measures.
Cassidy, R., Thomas, I. A., Higgins, A., Bailey, J. S., & Jordan, P. (2019). A carrying capacity framework for soil phosphorus and hydrological sensitivity from farm to catchment scales. Science of the Total Environment, 687, 277–286. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.05.453