Get Into the Zonethe Root Zone
McGinnis March 5, 2007
There's a lot going on beneath the surface. Beyond our sightbut
not beyond our controlthe futures of farm fields unfold in crop root
zones. This area immediately surrounding a plant's roots is the site of
physical, chemical and biological activities that govern the plant's growth and
its influence on the environment.
To help growers make well-informed decisions, Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) scientists in the agency's
Systems Research Unit at Fort Collins, Colo., created the Root Zone Water
Quality Model (RZWQM) in the early 1990s.
Now Fort Collins scientists have developed RZWQM2, an enhanced version
of the original water quality model that's been designed to serve an even
larger audience with greater ease.
RZWQM2 simulates plant growth and the movement of water, nutrients and
chemicals within and around the root zones of agricultural cropping systems. By
entering information about their systems, growers can estimate the
environmental and economic impacts of a variety of management decisions,
including tillage, crop residue management, crop rotations and the timing and
rate of chemical applications.
What advantages does the new model have? Research leader
Ahuja and his colleagues have linked it to existing crop growth models. A
new, user-friendly interface allows input on more components, such as new
crop-modeling technology and subsurface drainage. The team also extended the
model's application and improved the parameters involved in modeling the flow
of shallow groundwater to tile drains, increasing the model's accuracy.
The model has been downloaded more than 1,000 times since it became
publicly available in 1995. It is used by researchers and organizations around
the world, including the Environmental Protection
Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and
the pesticide company Bayer
about this research in the March 2007 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the chief in-house scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.