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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Ground Water Quality

EPIC Tile Flow and Nitrate Loss Predictions for Three Minnesota Cropping Systems


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 3, p. 822-830
    Received: Mar 20, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): pwgassma@iastate.edu
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  1. S.W. Chunga,
  2. P.W. Gassman *b,
  3. D.R. Hugginsc and
  4. G.W. Randalld
  1. a Civil Eng., Korean Water Resources Corp., Taejon, South Korea
    b Center for Agric. and Rural Dev., Dep. of Economics, Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA, 50011
    c USDA-ARS, 233 Johnson Hall, Washington State Univ., Pullman, WA 99164
    d Univ. of Minnesota, Southern Research and Outreach Station, Waseca, MN 56093


Subsurface tile drains are a key source of nitrate N (NO3–N) losses to streams in parts of the north central USA. In this study, the Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator (EPIC) model was evaluated by comparing measured vs. predicted tile flow, tile NO3–N loss, soil profile residual NO3–N, crop N uptake, and yield, using 4 yr of data collected at a site near Lamberton, MN, for three crop rotations: continuous corn (Zea mays L.) or CC, corn–soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] or CS, and continuous alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) or CA. Initially, EPIC was run using standard Soil Conservation Service (SCS) runoff curve numbers (CN2) for CC and CS; monthly variations were accurately tracked for tile flow (r 2 = 0.86 and 0.90) and NO3–N loss (r 2 = 0.69 and 0.52). However, average annual CC and CS tile flows were underpredicted by −32 and −34%, and corresponding annual NO3–N losses were underpredicted by −11 and −52%. Predicted average annual tile flows and NO3–N losses generally improved following calibration of the CN2; tile flow underpredictions were −9 and −12%, whereas NO3–N losses were 0.6 and −54%. Adjusting a N parameter further improved predicted CS NO3–N losses. Predicted monthly tile flows and NO3–N losses for the CA simulation compared poorly with observed values (r 2 values of 0.27 and 0.19); the annual drainage volumes and N losses were of similar magnitude to those measured. Overall, EPIC replicated the relative impacts of the three cropping systems on N fate.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:822–830.