Phosphorus indexing for cropland: Overview and basic concepts of the Iowa phosphorus index

Mallarino, A. P.
Stewart, B. M.
Baker, J. L.
Downing, J. D.
Sawyer, John
Sawyer, J. E.
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Animal Ecology
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AgronomyAnimal EcologyAgricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Excessive phosphorus (P) loss from soils impairs surface water resources. An assessment tool or index has been proposed to identify fields with high potential risk of P delivery. The P index integrates P source and transport factors into a decision making process that may lead to changes in current P management and soil conservation practices. The index recognizes that a single soil P threshold alone is not an appropriate evaluation factor because of the varying conditions across fields. Although most indices being developed in the United States include similar factors, source and transport characteristics are considered in various ways to best address the variable conditions across regions. The Iowa P index reflects conditions that predominate under grain-crop production systems, considers source factors in a multiplicative manner within three main transport mechanisms, and approximates loads of P likely to enter and become available to aquatic ecosystems. An erosional component considers sheet and rill erosion, P enrichment, total soil P, buffers, sediment delivery, distance to a stream, and the long term biotic availability of particulate P in lake ecosystems. A runoff component considers water runoff based on a modification of the runoff curve number (RCN), soil-test P (STP), rate, time, and method of P application. An internal drainage component considers the presence of tiles, water flow to tile lines, subsurface recharge from subsurface flow, and soil-test P. When the erosion risk is high, the index weighs particulate P loss heavily compared with dissolved P loss, and emphasizes long-term processes comparatively more than short-term processes. This P assessment tool helps identify alternative P and soil conservation management options for reducing total P delivery from fields to surface water resources.


This article is from Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 57 (2002): 440.