Nonpoint-source pollution of surface water by N is considered a major cause of hypoxia. Because Corn Belt watersheds have been identified as major sources of N in the Mississippi River basin, the fate and transport of N from midwestern agricultural watersheds have received considerable interest. The fate and transport of N in the shallow ground water of these watersheds still needs additional research. Our purpose was to estimate denitrification in the shallow ground water of a tile-drained, Corn Belt watershed with fine-grained soils. Over a 3-yr period, N was monitored in the surface and ground water of an agricultural watershed in central Illinois. A significant amount of N was transported past the tile drains and into shallow
ground water. The ground water nitrate was isotopically heavier than tile drain nitrate, which can be explained by denitrification in the subsurface. Denitrifying bacteria were found at depths to 10 m throughout the watershed. Laboratory and push-pull tests showed that a significant fraction of nitrate could be denitrified rapidly.