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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Nitrate Losses in Subsurface Tile Drainage As Affected by Tillage, Crop Rotations, and Fertilizer Management

Authors
item Ma, Liwang
item Malone, Robert
item Saseendran, S - COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY
item Ahuja, Lajpat
item Heilman, Philip
item Kanwar, R - IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Biological Systems Simulation Group Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 9, 2005
Publication Date: April 11, 2006
Citation: Ma, L., Malone, R.W., Saseendran, S.A., Ahuja, L.R., Heilman, P., Kanwar, R.S. 2006. Nitrate losses in subsurface tile drainage as affected by tillage, crop rotations, and fertilizer management. Biological Systems Simulation Group Proceedings. Fort Collins, CO. April 11-13, 2006.

Interpretive Summary: Nitrate emanating from artificial subsurface drains in the U.S. Midwest has been implicated as a strong contributing factor to water quality problems such as hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Balancing the amount of N needed for optimum plant growth while minimizing nitrate transport to ground and surface waters, however, remains a challenge. Field studies are limited that investigate the water quality effects of multiple management practices such as nitrogen application timing and amount. Agricultural simulation models may be one method to cost-effectively investigate the effect of a variety of management practices under a variety of conditions. The Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM) was calibrated to long-term (1990-2003) data near Nashua, Iowa, which includes 36 plots with a variety of crop rotations, tillage, and manure and fertilizer applications. The model adequately responds to year-to-year climate variation and to plot-to-plot management variation within a year. The calibrated model will be used to populate a database that quantifies the water quality and yield effect of multiple agricultural management practices under several climate and soil conditions. A database such as this may be a useful tool that simply and objectively quantifies the tradeoffs of management alternatives, which may help accelerate adoption of best management practices.

Technical Abstract: Nitrate emanating from artificial subsurface drains in the U.S. Midwest has been implicated as a strong contributing factor to water quality problems such as hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. Balancing the amount of N needed for optimum plant growth while minimizing nitrate transport to ground and surface waters, however, remains a challenge. Field studies are limited that investigate the water quality effects of multiple management practices such as nitrogen application timing and amount. Agricultural simulation models may be one method to cost-effectively investigate the effect of a variety of management practices under a variety of conditions. The Root Zone Water Quality Model (RZWQM) was calibrated to long-term (1990-2003) data near Nashua, Iowa, which includes 36 plots with a variety of crop rotations, tillage, and manure and fertilizer applications. The model adequately responds to year-to-year climate variation and to plot-to-plot management variation within a year. The calibrated model will be used to populate a database that quantifies the water quality and yield effect of multiple agricultural management practices under several climate and soil conditions. A database such as this may be a useful tool that simply and objectively quantifies the tradeoffs of management alternatives, which may help accelerate adoption of best management practices.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
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