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ARS Home » Midwest Area » St. Paul, Minnesota » Soil and Water Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #219208

Title: Nitrogen Cycle Modeling: a Mechanistic Estimate of N-losses From Agricultural Fields Over the Seasonal Time Period

item MAGGI, F
item GU, C
item RILEY, W
item Venterea, Rodney - Rod

Submitted to: American Geophysical Union
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2007
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The biogeochemical cycle of nitrogen and production of NO, N2O, and CO2 gas and NO2- and NO3- ions in nutrient-enriched agricultural fields is mediated by soil microbial activity, the hydrological cycle, plant dynamics, and climatic forcing. Understanding how NO, N2O, CO2 gases and NO2- and NO3- ions are released from agricultural fields to the environment is a key factor in controlling the green-house effect and water contamination, and assumes ever greater importance in view of the foreseen increase in biofuel, food, and fiber production. To address these issues we have developed a mechanistic model (TOUGHREACT-N) for various nitrification and denitrification pathways, multiple microbial biomass dynamics, heat and water flows, and various chemical reactions at local and kinetic equilibrium. The soil column is represented in a 1D framework, with hydraulic properties described by a water tension-saturation model. Biotic and abiotic reactions are assumed to follow Michaelis-Menten kinetics, while a consortium of several micro-organismal strains is assumed to follow multiple Monod growth kinetics accounting for electron donor, electron acceptor, and inhibitor concentrations. Water flow is modeled with the Darcy-Richards equation, while nutrient transport is modeled by Fickian advective and diffusive processes in both gaseous and liquid phases. Heat flow is modeled with the Fourier equation. Plant dynamics is taken into account by coupling TOUGHREACT-N with CERES to determine water and nutrient uptake, and soil carbon accumulation. TOUGHREACT-N was calibrated against field measurements to assess pathways of N losses following fertilization. A good agreement between field observations and model predictions was found. We identified two dominant time scales in the system response that depended on plants dynamics. Before plants have substantial impact on soil nutrients and moisture content, N losses are characterized by rapid increases as a function of water application rate and fertilizer amount and application depth. Under reference fertilization and irrigation practices, approximately 1.64% and 1.61% of the total applied N is lost as N-NO(g) and N-N2O(g), respectively, while losses of N-N2(g), N-NO2-, and N-NO3- where several orders of magnitude smaller. When plants grow, pulses in N losses became smoother due to nutrient and water uptake. Contrarily to predictions of non-mechanistic, coarse-scale models (e.g., CASA, CENTURY) N losses are predominantly non-linearly increasing with fertilizer and water application amount, and with fertilizer application depth, thus invoking a revision of long-term estimates of nitrogen and carbon balances at global scales.