Simulated long-term nitrogen losses for a midwestern agricultural watershed in the United States

Prasanna H. Gowda, David J. Mulla, Dan B. Jaynes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Adequate knowledge on the movement of nutrients under various agricultural practices is essential for developing remedial measures to reduce nonpoint source pollution. Mathematical models, after extensive calibration and validation, are useful to derive such knowledge and to identify site-specific alternative agricultural management practices. A spatial-process model that uses GIS and ADAPT, a field scale daily time-step continuous water table management model, was calibrated and validated for flow and nitrate-N discharges from a 365 ha agricultural watershed in central Iowa, in the Midwestern United States. This watershed was monitored for nitrate-N losses from 1991 to 1997. Spatial patterns in crops, topography, fertilizer applications and climate were used as input to drive the model. The first half of the monitored data was used for calibration and the other half was used in validation of the model. For the calibration period, the observed and predicted flow and nitrate-N discharges were in excellent agreement with r2 values of 0.88 and 0.74, respectively. During the validation period, the observed and predicted flow and nitrate-N discharges were in good agreement with r2 values of 0.71 and 0.50, respectively. For all 6 years of data, the observed annual nitrate-N losses of 26 kg ha-1 for the entire simulation were in excellent agreement with predicted nitrate-N losses of 24.2 kg ha-1. The calibrated model was used to investigate the long-term impacts of nitrate-N losses to changes in the rate and timing of fertilizer application. Results indicate that nitrate-N losses were sensitive to rate and timing of fertilizer application. Modeled annual nitrate-N losses showed a 17% reduction in nitrate-N losses by reducing the fertilizer application rate by 20% and switching the application timing from fall to spring. Further reductions in nitrate-N losses require conversion of row cropland to pasture and/or replacement of continuous corn or corn-soybean rotation systems with alternative crops.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)616-624
Number of pages9
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Volume95
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2008

Keywords

  • Fertilizer rate
  • Total Maximum Daily Load
  • Upper Mississippi River Basin

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