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Data from: Precipitation manipulation experiments may be confounded by water source

posted on 2024-02-20, 15:39 authored by Kurt ReinhartKurt Reinhart, Lance T. Vermeire

This is digital research data corresponding to the manuscript, Reinhart, K.O., Vermeire, L.T. Precipitation Manipulation Experiments May Be Confounded by Water Source. J Soil Sci Plant Nutr (2023).

Files for a 3x2x2 factorial field experiment and water quality data used to create Table 1. Data for the experiment were used for the statistical analysis and generation of summary statistics for Figure 2.

Purpose: This study aims to investigate the consequences of performing precipitation manipulation experiments with mineralized water in place of rainwater (i.e. demineralized water). Limited attention has been paid to the effects of water mineralization on plant and soil properties, even when the experiments are in a rainfed context.

Methods: We conducted a 6-yr experiment with a gradient in spring rainfall (70, 100, and 130% of ambient). We tested effects of rainfall treatments on plant biomass and six soil properties and interpreted the confounding effects of dissolved solids in irrigation water.

Results: Rainfall treatments affected all response variables. Sulfate was the most common dissolved solid in irrigation water and was 41 times more abundant in irrigated (i.e. 130% of ambient) than other plots. Soils of irrigated plots also had elevated iron (16.5 µg × 10 cm-2 × 60-d vs 8.9) and pH (7.0 vs 6.8). The rainfall gradient also had a nonlinear (hump-shaped) effect on plant available phosphorus (P). Plant and microbial biomasses are often limited by and positively associated with available P, suggesting the predicted positive linear relationship between plant biomass and P was confounded by additions of mineralized water. In other words, the unexpected nonlinear relationship was likely driven by components of mineralized irrigation water (i.e. calcium, iron) and/or shifts in soil pH that immobilized P.

Conclusions: Our results suggest robust precipitation manipulation experiments should either capture rainwater when possible (or use demineralized water) or consider the confounding effects of mineralized water on plant and soil properties.

Resources in this dataset:

Resource Title: Readme file- Data dictionary File Name: README.txt Resource Description: File contains data dictionary to accompany data files for a research study.

Resource Title: 3x2x2 factorial dataset.csv File Name: 3x2x2 factorial dataset.csv Resource Description: Dataset is for a 3x2x2 factorial field experiment (factors: rainfall variability, mowing seasons, mowing intensity) conducted in northern mixed-grass prairie vegetation in eastern Montana, USA. Data include activity of 5 plant available nutrients, soil pH, and plant biomass metrics. Data from 2018.

Resource Title: water quality dataset.csv File Name: water quality dataset.csv Resource Description: Water properties (pH and common dissolved solids) of samples from Yellowstone River collected near Miles City, Montana. Data extracted from Rinella MJ, Muscha JM, Reinhart KO, Petersen MK (2021) Water quality for livestock in northern Great Plains rangelands. Rangeland Ecol. Manage. 75: 29-34.


USDA-ARS: 5434-21630-003-00D


Data contact name

Reinhart, Kurt

Data contact email


Ag Data Commons

Intended use

Data set for: Reinhart, Vermeire. 2023. Precipitation manipulation experiments may be confounded by water source. Journal of Soil Science & Plant Nutrition accepted 4/17/2023

Temporal Extent Start Date



  • notPlanned


  • Not specified

Geographic Coverage


Geographic location - description

Miles City, Montana, USA

ISO Topic Category

  • climatologyMeteorologyAtmosphere
  • environment
  • inlandWaters

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

plant nutrition; field experimentation; water quality; statistical analysis; mineralization; rain; spring; phytomass; irrigation water; sulfates; irrigation; iron; phosphorus; calcium; soil pH; drought; Montana; prairie soil; nutrient management

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

ARS National Program Number

  • 215

Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public

Preferred dataset citation

Reinhart, Kurt O.; Vermeire, Lance T. (2023). Data from: Precipitation manipulation experiments may be confounded by water source. Ag Data Commons.