Impact of switching crop type on water and solute fluxes in deep vadose zone

T. Turkeltaub, D. Kurtzman, E. E. Russak, O. Dahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Switching crop type and consequently changing irrigation and fertilization regimes lead to alterations in deep percolation and solute concentrations of pore water. Herein, observations from the deep vadose zone and model simulations demonstrate the changes in water, chloride, and nitrate fluxes under a commercial greenhouse following the change from tomato to lettuce cropping. The site, located above a phreatic aquifer, was monitored for 5 years. A vadose-zone monitoring system was implemented under the greenhouse and provided continuous data on both temporal variations in water content and chemical composition of the pore water at multiple depths in the deep vadose zone (up to 20 m). Following crop switching, a significant reduction in chloride concentration and dramatic increase in nitrate were observed across the unsaturated zone. The changes in chemical composition of the vadose-zone pore water appeared as sequential breakthroughs across the unsaturated zone, initiating at land surface and propagating down toward the water table. Today, 3 years after switching the crops, penetration of the impact exceeds 10 m depth. Variations in the isotopic composition of nitrate (18O and 15N) in water samples obtained from the entire vadose zone clearly support a fast leaching process and mobilization of solutes across the unsaturated zone following the change in crop type. Water flow and chloride transport models were calibrated to observations acquired during an enhanced infiltration experiment. Forward simulation runs were performed with the calibrated models, constrained to tomato and lettuce cultivation regimes as surface boundary conditions. Predicted chloride and nitrate concentrations were in agreement with the observed concentrations. The simulated water drainage and nitrogen leaching implied that the observed changes are an outcome of recommended agricultural management practices.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)9828-9842
Number of pages15
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • deep percolation
  • flow and transport model
  • groundwater recharge
  • isotopic signature
  • land use change
  • vadose zone

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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