Snowmelt runoff, sediment, and phosphorus losses under three different tillage systems

N. C. Hansen, Satish C Gupta, J. F. Moncrief

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


In cold climates, snowmelt runoff often exceeds rainfall runoff during the year. Conservation tillage practices may be effective in reducing runoff during the cropping season but not during the snowmelt period. A plot study was conducted on a cropped hillslope to assess how tillage practices affect snowmelt runoff and the associated losses of sediment, phosphorus (P), and chemical oxygen demand (COD). Tillage systems were fall moldboard and chisel plowing with spring disking, and a ridge till system utilizing only the tillage associated with summer row cultivation. Tillage and planting were done up and down the slope. Ridge tilled plots had higher fall residue cover, retained more snow, had less surface roughness, and consequently produced more runoff than the moldboard plow treatment. The amount of runoff from chisel plowed plots was similar to runoff from ridge tilled plots despite a relatively rough surface and moderate amount of residue cover. Phosphorus losses in runoff were higher for the ridge till and chisel plow systems than for the moldboard plow system. For all tillage systems, soluble P represented a major portion (75%) of the total P loss in snowmelt runoff. Although erosive losses in snowmelt were low, the P losses were substantial and merit consideration in studies evaluating management systems impact on surface water quality in regions where snowmelt runoff is important. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-100
Number of pages8
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Nov 22 2000


  • Phosphorus losses
  • Snowmelt
  • Surface runoff


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