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A Coupled Mathematical Model to Predict the Influence of Nitrogen Fertilization on Crop, Soil and Groundwater Quality


  • Irina Marinov


  • Anca Marinov



Intensified use of nitrogen based fertilizers in agriculture has resulted in a significant increases in soils and groundwater nitrate concentrations all over the world. Here we propose a new coupled model which describes the physical transport and biogeochemical dynamics of the water and nitrogen compounds in a soil-water-plant-groundwater system. Our model takes into account water infiltration into an unsaturated porous medium, the complex biogeochemical cycle of nitrogen in soils, nitrate leaching from the agricultural system toward the aquifer’s water table, and the dispersion of nitrates in the groundwater. We calibrate our model and analyse the influence of soil type, precipitation or irrigation regime and fertilization schedules on leaching to groundwater as well as the temporal and spatial evolution of the nitrate pollutant plume in the aquifer. Simulations indicate that in order to achieve high crop yields while minimizing nitrogen loading to soils and groundwater we need to create an optimal balance between the amount of chemical fertilizers and water applied to crops on one hand, and the amount of nitrate and water used by plants on the other. We find that medium soils are more suitable for a sustainable corn production than coarse soils, ensuring both higher yield and less nitrate pollution of the aquifer. Regardless of soil type and irrigation schedule, a gradual fertilization throughout the plant life cycle reduces the potential for leaching and aquifer pollution. For medium soils, a more modest irrigation schedule results in more nitrate available for crops and less net leaching to the groundwater. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Irina Marinov & Anca Marinov, 2014. "A Coupled Mathematical Model to Predict the Influence of Nitrogen Fertilization on Crop, Soil and Groundwater Quality," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 28(15), pages 5231-5246, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:waterr:v:28:y:2014:i:15:p:5231-5246
    DOI: 10.1007/s11269-014-0664-5

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gardenas, A.I. & Hopmans, J.W. & Hanson, B.R. & Simunek, J., 2005. "Two-dimensional modeling of nitrate leaching for various fertigation scenarios under micro-irrigation," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 219-242, June.
    2. Costa, J. L. & Massone, H. & Martinez, D. & Suero, E. E. & Vidal, C. M. & Bedmar, F., 2002. "Nitrate contamination of a rural aquifer and accumulation in the unsaturated zone," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 33-47, September.
    3. Xiaosi Su & Huang Wang & Yuling Zhang, 2013. "Health Risk Assessment of Nitrate Contamination in Groundwater: A Case Study of an Agricultural Area in Northeast China," Water Resources Management: An International Journal, Published for the European Water Resources Association (EWRA), Springer;European Water Resources Association (EWRA), vol. 27(8), pages 3025-3034, June.
    4. Rinaldi, Michele, 2001. "Application of EPIC model for irrigation scheduling of sunflower in Southern Italy," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 185-196, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Azad, Nasrin & Behmanesh, Javad & Rezaverdinejad, Vahid & Abbasi, Fariborz & Navabian, Maryam, 2018. "Developing an optimization model in drip fertigation management to consider environmental issues and supply plant requirements," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 208(C), pages 344-356.


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