Investigating the effectiveness of drain infiltration to minimize peat oxidation in agricultural fields in Flevoland, the Netherlands

Hoogland, Frouke; Roelandse, Arjen S.; de La Loma González, Beatriz; Waterloo, Maarten J.; Mooij, Perry W.; Verhagen, Sabine A.; Velstra, Jouke

In the Province of Flevoland, the Netherlands, land subsidence poses a problem to agriculture and water management. The peat layers in the soil are susceptible to compression and oxidation causing further subsidence. Applying subirrigation through the tile drain system to maintain saturation of the peat may be a measure to slow down subsidence. A study was therefore carried out at two sites, Nagele and Zeewolde, to assess the impact of subirrigation in the peat on the seasonal variation in soil moisture content, and corresponding redox conditions. Bacterial community analysis was carried out to verify the hydrochemical observations. Subirrigation proved to be an efficient measure to maintain a high water level in the peat soil as long as the permeability in the upper part of the peat was sufficient to allow transmission of water into the inter-drain area and when the peat layer extended enough below the minimum regional water level to prevent drainage to the sand layer underneath. The peat showed dual porosity and water levels could well be maintained by subirrigation at the Nagele site. At the Zeewolde site, the variability in the thin peat layer allowed drainage to occur in the sand layer, preventing subirrigation to maintain high water levels. However, at both sites the peat layer remained close to saturation throughout the summer, which may be caused by the fine-grained mineral layer isolating the peat from water extraction via evapotranspiration. Nitrate concentrations of up to 100 mg Linline-formula−1 were observed were high (inline-formula>50 mg Linline-formula−1) in the oxic mineral top layer but were low in the peat (0.3 mg Linline-formula−1) at both Nagele and Zeewolde sites. Sulphate concentrations also showed a decrease with depth in the peat at Nagele, indicating a transition from sub-oxic above 1.5 m depth to anoxic conditions at 3.5 m depth. The hydrochemical observations in the soil moisture in the peat at Nagele confirmed that conditions were sub-oxic in the upper part of the peat (0.7 m below soil surface) to anoxic at greater depth (3.5 m). Soil microbe analyses showed few nitrification bacteria in the peat, whereas communities specialised in denitrification and ammonification were present, as well as sulphate reducing bacteria and methanogenic species. This confirmed the sub-oxic to anoxic conditions in the peat deduced from the hydrochemical observations. At Zeewolde, conditions remained sub-oxic throughout the profile.

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Hoogland, Frouke / Roelandse, Arjen S. / de La Loma González, Beatriz / et al: Investigating the effectiveness of drain infiltration to minimize peat oxidation in agricultural fields in Flevoland, the Netherlands. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Frouke Hoogland et al.

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