Modeling Nitrogen and water management effects in a Wheat-Maize double-cropping system
Excessive N and water use in agriculture causes environmental degradation and can potentially jeopardize the sustainability of the system. A field study was conducted from 2000 to 2002 to study the effects of four N treatments (0, 100, 200, and 300 kg N ha–1 per crop) on a wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and maize (Zea mays L.) double cropping system under 70 ± 15% field capacity in the North China Plain (NCP). The root zone water quality model (RZWQM), with the crop estimation through resource and environment synthesis (CERES) plant growth modules incorporated, was evaluated for its simulation of crop production, soil water, and N leaching in the double cropping system. Soil water content, biomass, and grain yield were better simulated with normalized root mean square errors (NRMSE, RMSE divided by mean observed value) from 0.11 to 0.15 than soil NO3–N and plant N uptake that had NRMSE from 0.19 to 0.43 across these treatments. The long-term simulation with historical weather data showed that, at 200 kg N ha–1 per crop application rate, auto-irrigation triggered at 50% of the field capacity and recharged to 60% field capacity in the 0- to 50-cm soil profile were adequate for obtaining acceptable yield levels in this intensified double cropping system. Results also showed potential savings of more than 30% of the current N application rates per crop from 300 to 200 kg N ha–1, which could reduce about 60% of the N leaching without compromising crop yields.