Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Ag Field Management Model Now Better, Faster / October 28, 2002 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
ARS News and Information Search News and Info Science for Kids Image Gallery Agricultural Research Magazine Publications and Newsletters News Archive News and Info home ARS News and Information
Latest news | Subscribe

Mulch of corn-crop residue protects cotton plants: Link to photo information
Click image for caption and other photo information.

 

Ag Field Management Model Now Better, Faster

By Amy Spillman
October 28, 2002

Soil erosion is a major concern to farmers, so many have adopted reduced-tillage or no-till practices that help retain residue on fields and conserve soil moisture.

Although mulching has become common in the real world, the effect of doing so has not been included in a computer model used by many researchers to gain insight into complex agricultural systems--until now.

Simon van Donk, formerly of the University of Georgia (UGA) and currently an agricultural engineer at the Agricultural Research Service's Grain and Marketing Production Research Center in Manhattan, Kan., and his collaborators at UGA and ARS have updated the ENergy and WATer BALance computer model. It now simulates the effects of a mulch layer on soil water content and temperature, soil water evaporation, and crop transpiration--that is, water lost from living plant surfaces.

Development of the ENWATBAL model started more than 25 years ago. The model evaluates the effects that different management practices have on water conservation and soil temperature in the field. The soil temperature is important because it affects nutrient availability, disease development and crop growth.

The model has been a useful tool for investigating questions that are difficult and costly to examine through field studies. However, until it was modified, it could not take into account the effect that mulch might have on a crop system. Among other things, mulch modifies soil temperature, which may be favorable or unfavorable for the growth of a specific crop.

In addition to adding the mulch option, the researchers adjusted some of the mathematical equations in the computer model, making it approximately 50 times faster.

The scientists' modifications have increased the model's applicability, making it even more helpful to agricultural researchers who are working to improve soil, crop and water management practices.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Top | News Staff | Photo Staff

E-mail the web team Privacy and other policies Site map About ARS Information Staff Bottom menu

Home | News | Pubs | Magazine | Photos | Sci4Kids | Search
About ARS Info | Site map | Policies | E-mail us

Last Modified: 10/28/2002
Footer Content Back to Top of Page