European Agrochemicals Geospatial Loss Estimator: Model Development and Applications

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 The CAP reform by decoupling subsidies from production levels and liking them to the protection of the environment is promoting a cleaner agriculture and a more sustainable use of resources. Agricultural subsidies are now linked to application of statutory minimum requirements (SMR) and cross compliance. Farmers willing to go beyond SMR can get additional payments through Rural Development Programs by implementing “Good Farming Practices”. Modelling tools to help managers decide appropriate strategies in reducing the impact of agriculture on soil and water resources are needed. These models must be responsive to management practices, and should be flexible enough to allow the evaluation of the environmental and the crop production response to various forcing functions including policy (set aside, compliance with the nitrates directive), farmer personnel initiatives such as the implementation of best management practices, but also to uncontrollable factors such as climate change.
The purpose of this research was to develop a versatile tool allowing the assessment of the fate of agrochemicals at EU level (EU25) using readily available data. The tool developed, EAGLE (European Agrochemicals Geospatial Loss Estimator), is composed of the following three distinct components:

• EPIC model. EPIC is a continuous simulation model that can be used to determine the effect of management strategies on agricultural production and soil and water resources. The drainage area considered by EPIC is generally a fieldsized area, up to 100 ha (weather, soils, and management systems are assumed to be homogeneous). The major components in EPIC are weather simulation, hydrology, erosion-sedimentation, nutrient cycling, pesticide fate, plant growth, soil temperature, tillage, economics, and plant environment control. Within the EAGLE context, EPIC represents the logic tier where data input are processed to obtain relevant information for the specified study area.

Database. The EAGLE European geodatabase holds all the necessary data (soil, meteorological, crop management, etc.) to perform EPIC simulations. A specific data model was designed, using the ESRI ArcGIS geodatabase environment, in order to structure all the relevant data (geographic and tabular) to perform EPIC modelling at European scale.

GIS Interface. This is an ESRI ArcMap customization that allows the use of EPIC using data stored in the previously described geodatabase through an intuitive GIS interface. The EPIC model (Williams, 1995) was selected as it runs on a farm (field basis) and includes most of the aspects linked to farming practices and operations. It allows the simulation of the fate of nitrogen, phosphorus, and pesticides as affected by farming activities such as timing of agrochemicals application, tillage, crop rotation, etc., while providing at the same time a basic farm economic account. In addition EPIC has been thoroughly evaluated and applied from local to continental scale (Gassman et al., 2005). Furthermore most of the parameters required to run EPIC are readily available at EU level (Mulligan et al., 2006).

This report will start with a brief description of the theory behind the EPIC model will be provided. Then the following section will present the geodatabase put together in order to run EPIC at the European level. The next part will detail an application of the EPIC model to evaluate the impact of potential climate change on crop water and nutrient requirements. Finally a brief application to evaluate the fate of pesticides will be given to illustrate the versatility of the developed tool.

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