Effectiveness of non-fertilized buffer strips in the Netherlands : final report of a combined field, model and cost-effectiveness study

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional

Abstract

This integrated field and model study explains low effectiveness of non-fertilized 5 m wide harvested grass buffer strips (BS) to reduce nutrient loads from agricultural lowland fields to ditches. Buffer strip effectiveness (BSE) was defined as the relative nutrient load reduction, compared to a normally fertilized reference strip (REF). We collected nutrient loads from paired BS and REF strips in separate reservoirs in the ditch for three or four years at five field sites characteristic for the hydrogeology of the Netherlands. No statistically significant BSE was found at three out of five sites. A statistically significant BSE of 10-15% was found for N at the peat soil site and of 57-61% for P at the site with pure shallow flow. Dynamic 2D modelling shows BSE for N slightly increases after four years, the increase of BSE for P depends on the rate of net P withdrawal from the BS by the harvested grass and on the buffer capacity of the soil. BSE increases with BS width or ditch density. A steady-state model predicts BSE for N between 7 and 22% for sandy soils, and between 14 and 25% for peat soils. Highest BSE for N is expected on fields with high, but not pure shallow flow. High BSE for P is expected with high surface runoff or shallow flow, and with high original P status of the soil (i.e. P leaking soils). Buffer strips are ineffective on pipe drained fields (clay soils). According to our cost analysis BS may be cost-effective under specific circumstances, but more cost effective alternatives exist to reduce nutrient loads.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherAlterra, Wageningen-UR
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Publication series

NameAlterra-rapport
PublisherAlterra Wageningen UR
No.2290
ISSN (Print)1566-7197

Keywords

  • nutrient leaching
  • nitrogen
  • phosphorus
  • surface water
  • ditches
  • vegetated strips
  • agricultural land
  • cost analysis
  • buffer zones

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