Spatial and Temporal Variability of Groundwater Nitrate Concentrations in Irrigated Mediterranean Agriculture

İBRİKÇİ H. , ÇETİN M. T. , Karnez E., Kirda C., TOPÇU S. , Ryan J., ...More

COMMUNICATIONS IN SOIL SCIENCE AND PLANT ANALYSIS, vol.43, pp.47-59, 2012 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 43
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/00103624.2012.631413
  • Page Numbers: pp.47-59


As nitrogen (N) fertilizer-use efficiency rarely exceeds 50% in most agricultural systems, the potential leaching of N to the groundwater, particularly under irrigated conditions, has economic, health, and environmental implications. Research in the Akarsu irrigation district in the Lower Seyhan Plain in southern Turkey sought to determine spatial and temporal variability of groundwater (GW) nitrate (NO3) concentrations in 2007-2008. Shallow groundwater observation wells 3 m deep were installed at different locations to represent the whole irrigation district. Groundwater samples were collected (February, April, July, October) and analyzed for ammonium (NH4) and NO3 concentrations. Because NH4 values were negligible, only NO3 data were processed to determine spatial and temporal variability and then used to develop regional NO3 maps using geographic information systems. Groundwater NO3 concentrations ranged between 0.17 and 55.96 mg L-1 during the 2 years, only exceeding the critical 50 mg L-1 concentration in 1% of the area sampled. The areal mean of NO3 concentration was greatest in February, indicating a potential N leaching of unused N from the early season with intensive rainfall, especially in wheat-growing areas. Groundwater NO3 concentrations decreased after February; however, during the peak irrigation season in July, NO3 was relatively low because of crop uptake during spring and summer. In about half the area, groundwater NO3 concentrations ranged between 20 and 50 mg L-1 and were thus marginal relative to the critical pollution level. As N fertilizer use will continue to increase, especially with the expanded irrigation that is now occurring in the Mediterranean region, regular monitoring of groundwater NO3 is advisable under such conditions.