American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Spatial Analysis and Modeling the Nitrogen Flush after Rainfall Events at the Field Scale in SWAT

Elizabeth Brooke Haney, Richard Lee Haney, Jeffrey George Arnold, Michael James White, Raghavan Srinivasan and Scott Allen Senseman

DOI : 10.3844/ajessp.2016.102.121

American Journal of Environmental Sciences

Volume 12, Issue 2

Pages 102-121

Abstract

Current nitrogen (N) models tend to neglect the contribution of the microbial population to the plant available N pool, resulting in an underestimation of yield and possible over or underestimation of N runoff from natural and agricultural landscapes. We used the measurement of microbial activity coupled with the measurement of their food source, water extractable nitrogen (N) and carbon (C), to add a flush of N after rainfall events in the Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). Soil test data and spatial analysis of N mineralization values were used to: (1) Quantify spatial variation of water extractable organic and inorganic N, soil inorganic N and microbial activity; (2) develop a field scale model to determine N mineralization using updated soil testing methods for integration into the SWAT model; and (3) predict wheat yield. Simulation results indicate that yearly yield values and the variability of these yield values were consistently greater from the modified N model than from the SWAT model, as would be expected with the addition of N mineralization resulting from microbial activity. The spatial variability in yield results increased with the modified N model as compared to the SWAT model. The yield data resulting from the modified N model simulation were sensitive to soil nutrient values as well as variations in elevation. Temporal and climatic variability is accounted for by including a precipitation trigger for N mineralization. The equations used to model the complex biogeochemical N cycling relationships are elegant in their simplicity, yet capture the spatial complexity associated with their processes. The modified N model may be useful to regulators to help with the simulation of new conservation practices that include the effect of lower fertilizer inputs on nutrient runoff and pollution.

Copyright

© 2016 Elizabeth Brooke Haney, Richard Lee Haney, Jeffrey George Arnold, Michael James White, Raghavan Srinivasan and Scott Allen Senseman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.