Impact of dredging on phosphorus transport in agricultural drainage ditches of the Atlantic Coastal Plain

Francirose Shigaki, Peter J.A. Kleinman, John P. Schmidt, Andrew N. Sharpley, Arthur L. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Drainage ditches can be a key conduit of phosphorus (P) between agricultural soils of the Atlantic Coastal Plain and local surface waters, including the Chesapeake Bay. This study sought to quantify the effect of a common ditch management practice, sediment dredging, on fate of P in drainage ditches. Sediments from two drainage ditches that had been monitored for seven years and had similar characteristics (flow, P loadings, sediment properties) were sampled (0-5 cm) after one of the ditches had been dredged, which removed fine textured sediments (clay = 41%) with high organic matter content (85 g/kg) and exposed coarse textured sediments (clay = 15%) with low organic matter content (2.2 g/kg). Sediments were subjected to a three-phase experiment (equilibrium, uptake, and release) in recirculating 10-m-long, 0.2-m-wide, and 5-cm-deep flumes to evaluate their role as sources and sinks of P. Under conditions of low initial P concentrations in flume water, sediments from the dredged ditch released 13 times less P to the water than did sediments from the ditch that had not been dredged, equivalent to 24 mg dissolved P. However, the sediments from the dredged ditch removed 19% less P (76 mg) from the flume water when it was spiked with dissolved P to approximate long-term runoff concentrations. Irradiation of sediments to destroy microorganisms revealed that biological processes accounted for up to 30% of P uptake in the coarse textured sediments of the dredged ditch and 18% in the fine textured sediments of the undredged ditch. Results indicate that dredging of coastal plain drainage ditches can potentially impact the P buffering capacity of ditches draining agricultural soils with a high potential for P runoff.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1500-1511
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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