Soil acidification used as a management strategy to reduce nitrate losses from agricultural land

Sarah J. Kemmitt, David Wright, David L. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Citations (Scopus)


pH is known to be a primary regulator of nutrient cycling in soil. Increasing soil acidity in agricultural systems has the potential to slow down N cycling and reduce N losses from leaching thereby enhancing sustainability and reducing pollution. We conducted a field experiment to investigate the impact of acidity on N leaching in arable and grassland agricultural systems. The results showed that nitrate (NO3-) concentrations in soil water were greater under arable than under grassland. Soil acidification significantly lowered NO3- concentrations in soil water over winter and spring under grassland, whilst in cereal plots a similar effect was only observed in spring. Our results suggest that soil acidification decreased nitrification causing an accumulation of NH4+ which was not subject to leaching. Dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) concentrations in soil water were significantly greater under arable than grassland. Soil acidification lowered concentrations of DON in soil water, usually to a greater extent in grassland than in arable plots. It was concluded that it may be possible to use careful soil pH management as a tool to control NO 3- leaching without compromising the quality of drainage water, and that this may be more effective on grassland than on arable crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)867-875
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2005
Externally publishedYes

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