Hydrology of small field plots used to study phosphorus runoff under simulated rainfall

M. S. Srinivasan, P. J.A. Kleinman, A. N. Sharpley, T. Buob, W. J. Gburek

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38 Scopus citations


Use of small plots and rainfall simulators to extrapolate trends in runoff water quality requires careful consideration of hydrologic process represented under such conditions. A modified version of the National Phosphorus Runoff Project (NPRP) protocol was used to assess the hydrology of paired 1 x 2 m plots established on two soils with contrasting hydrologic properties (somewhat poorly drained vs. well drained). Rain simulations (60 mm h -1) were conducted to generate 30 min of runoff. For the somewhat poorly drained soil, simulations were conducted in October and May to contrast dry conditions typically targeted by NPRP protocols with wet conditions generally associated with natural runoff. For rhe well-drained soil, only dry conditions (October) were evaluated. Under dry antecedent moisture conditions, an average of 64 mm of rainfall was applied to the somewhat poorly drained soil to generate 30 min of runoff, as opposed to 96 mm to the well-drained soil. At an extreme, differences in rainfall were equivalent to a 50-yr rainfall-return period. An absence of detectable spatial trends in surface soil moisture suggests uniformity of runoff processes within the plots. No differences in applied rainfall were evident between wet and dry antecedent conditions for the somewhat poorly drained soil. However, significant differences in runoff generation processes were observed in dissolved P concentrations between wet and dry conditions. As natural runoff from the somewhat poorly drained soil is largely under wet antecedent conditions, this study highlights the need for care in interpreting findings from generalized protocols that favor infiltration-excess runoff mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1833-1842
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 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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