The quality of the soil water in the Marchfeld

The Marchfeld region can be characterized as intensively used agricultural production zone. Vegetables, cereals and maize are dominant crops in the region.

In combination with low precipitation amounts and the associated low groundwater recharge, the nitrogen losses into the groundwater are very concentrated due to the lack of dilution. Nitrate concentrations in the groundwater are therefore usually above the limit of 50 mg l-1, requiring measures to reduce the pollution of groundwater.

Brief description

To investigate the impact of agricultural management on groundwater quality a total of seven soil water monitoring sites were set up for long-term monitoring. The sites were selected taking soil properties (depth, field capacity) into account. At each monitoring site, the management data such as crop rotation, seeding and harvest time, soil cultivation and fertilizer management were collected and the yields measured. At a depth of 150 cm, which is below the root zone, leachate was collected to analyse the seepage water quality.

After several years of collecting data using a business as usual approach, modifications of the agricultural management, above all the fertilization practice, are now being implemented together with the agricultural chamber of Lower Austria  and the farmers association of district Gänserndorf. Beside the accompanying measurement of nitrogen in the soil, existing procedures such as nitrate information service, N-tester and new methods (satellite surveys) are evaluated in comparison to local practice in terms of nitrogen use efficiency. Methods and findings will be further developed for a regional application.

Final aim of all activities is to combine productive and high-quality agricultural production with the interests of water management (groundwater quality) in order to preserve groundwater as a drinking water resource.