A simple model for predicting solute concentration in agricultural tile lines shortly after application

Tammo S. Steenhuis*, Marcin Bodnar, Larry D. Geohring, Sunnie Aigbodion E. Aburime, Rony Wallach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Agricultural tile drainage lines have been implicated as a source of pesticide contamination of surface waters. Field experiments were conducted and a simple model was developed to examine preferential transport of applied chemicals to agricultural tile lines. The conceptual model consists of two linear reservoirs, one near the soil surface and one near the tile drain. The connection between the two reservoirs is via preferential flow paths with very little interaction with the soil matrix. The model assumes that only part of the field contributes solutes to the tile drain. The model was evaluated with data from the field experiments in which chloride, 2,4-D, and atrazine concentrations were measured on eight tile-drained plots that were irrigated twice. Atrazine was applied two months prior to the experiment, 2,4-D was sprayed just before the first irrigation, and chloride before the second irrigation. All three chemicals were found in the tile effluent shortly after the rainfall began. Generally, the concentration increased with increased flow rates and decreased exponentially after the rainfall ceased. Although the simple model could simulate the observed chloride concentration patterns in the tile outflow for six of the eight plots, strict validation was not possible because of the difficulty with independent measurement of the data needed for a preferential flow model applied to field conditions. The results show that, to simulate pesticide concentration in tile lines, methods that can measure field averaged preferential flow characteristics need to be developed.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)823-833
Number of pages11
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1997


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