Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Rice soil, Water runoff


Current perception is that nutrient runoff from croplands is a significant contributor to poor water quality in some areas. While extensive research has been conducted to survey and ameliorate this problem for several upland crops, little work has been done to evaluate the problem with flooded rice (Oryza sativa, L.) soils. Since rice production utilizes a major portion of the total irrigation water usage for certain areas, it is important to understand the contribution of rice production to non-point source N and P in surface water. Several production fields were selected to evaluate the concentrations of nutrients in the floodwater at selected distances across the field, including inlet and exit. The fields were evaluated in either 1990, 1991, or 1992 and were managed by the individual rice producer. Water samples were collected from several locations within each field weekly following establishment of the permanent flood and analyzed for inorganic N (NH4-N, No3-N, and NO2-N) and soluble P. The N concentrations in the floodwater normally peaked following N fertilizer application but rapidly declined and remained below 1 mg N L-1. Water management resulted in some variation among locations with respect to the timing and magnitude of these peaks. The P concentrations were usually highest near the well and declined to less than 0.05 mg P L-1 as the water moved across the field. This was attributed to plant uptake, uptake by algae, and sediment deposition. The data indicates that rice fields have the potential to be utilized as a filtration system to reduce the nutrient load of irrigation water similar to constructed wetlands . Use of catfish pondwater, in comparison to well water, resulted in only slightly higher total N and total P levels with higher amounts of the nutrients in the organic form. Although the P levels were high enough to potentially contribute to eutrophication of surface water, the water exiting the field was lower than at the entry point irrespective of the source. Also, the total P (organic + inorganic) concentration was less than 0.05 mg P L- 1.

Report Number

PUB 164