Nitrate sorption potentials of three surface soils (soils-1-3) were evaluated under different solute concentrations, i.e. 1-100mgL-1. Batch and diffusion-cell adsorption experiments were conducted to delineate the diffusion property and maximum specific nitrate adsorption capacity (MSNAC) of the soils. Ho's pseudo-second order model well fitted the batch adsorption kinetics data (R2>0.99). Subsequently, the MSNAC was estimated using Langmuir and Freundlich isotherms; however, the best-fit was obtained with Langmuir isotherm. Interestingly, the batch adsorption experiments over-estimated the MSNAC of the soils compared with the diffusion-cell tests. On the other hand, a proportionate increase in the MSNAC was observed with the increase in soil organic matter content (OM) under the batch and diffusion-cell tests. Therefore, increasing the soil OM by the application of natural compost could stop nitrate leaching from agricultural fields and also increase the fertility of soil. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.