Nitrogen balance in a hilly semi-agricultural watershed in Northern Italy

  • Linda Pieri University of Bologna, Italy.
  • Francesca Ventura | lindapieri2@unibo.it University of Bologna, Italy.
  • Marco Vignudelli University of Bologna, Italy.
  • Paola Rossi University of Bologna, Italy.

Abstract

The research was carried out for 7 years, 1998-2005, in a semi-agricultural watershed, called Centonara, set within a natural regional park and situated in the hills surrounding Bologna, northern Italy. This area is characterized by one of the most interesting badlands complexes in Europe and represents one of the main points of naturalistic interest. The watershed is partially cultivated (about 30% of the total area) with arable crops, mostly cereals and alfalfa. To evaluate the impact of agricultural activity on the eco-sustainability of this area, the nitrogen (N) balance was computed. Although it is only an estimation of the potential environmental damage, the nitrogen balance is a useful indicator of the risk posed to the environment from excessive nitrogen and can be useful to understand the possible effects of a certain type of agricultural and environmental management and policy. The balance was calculated by computing the difference between all inputs and all outputs. The nitrogen balance of the watershed was found to be sustainable, with an annual nitrogen balance ranging between –2.3 and +4.4 kg ha–1. Despite the limited presence of arable lands, the agricultural management played the main role in determining the sustainability of the watershed, strongly influencing both the principal N sources and sinks. In fact, major N inputs derived from inorganic fertilization (8.1-15.5 kg ha–1yr–1) and biological fixation (8.3-14.3 kg ha–1yr–1). On the other hand, plant removal constituted the most important output (17.7-25.6 kg ha–1yr–1). N losses in the drainage water were limited (3.0-9.5 kg ha–1yr–1) and the Centonara stream water was found to be unpolluted, with a nitrate concentration always below the EU limit for drinking water. The similar magnitude of total N inputs and outputs indicated that the crop management, especially the crop rotation and the N fertilization, in the Centonara watershed has reached a good level of ecological sustainability. Finally, the computation of the N fertilizer-use efficiency index resulted to be useful to identify which crop and which type of management (organic or conventional) were more suitable for the pedo-climatic condition of the studied area.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Linda Pieri, University of Bologna
Department of Agroenvironmental Sciences and Technologies
Francesca Ventura, University of Bologna
Department of Agroenvironmental Sciences and Technologies
Marco Vignudelli, University of Bologna
Department of Agroenvironmental Sciences and Technologies
Paola Rossi, University of Bologna
Department of Agroenvironmental Sciences and Technologies
Published
2011-03-16
Section
Original Articles
Keywords:
agriculture, eco-sustainability, nitrogen balance, nitrogen losses, watershed.
Statistics
Abstract views: 6932

PDF: 419
HTML: 1394
Share it

PlumX Metrics

PlumX Metrics provide insights into the ways people interact with individual pieces of research output (articles, conference proceedings, book chapters, and many more) in the online environment. Examples include, when research is mentioned in the news or is tweeted about. Collectively known as PlumX Metrics, these metrics are divided into five categories to help make sense of the huge amounts of data involved and to enable analysis by comparing like with like.

How to Cite
Pieri, L., Ventura, F., Vignudelli, M., & Rossi, P. (2011). Nitrogen balance in a hilly semi-agricultural watershed in Northern Italy. Italian Journal of Agronomy, 6(1), e12. https://doi.org/10.4081/ija.2011.e12

Most read articles by the same author(s)