Modeling the Growth, Yield and N Dynamics of Wheat for Decoding the Tillage and Nitrogen Nexus in 8-Years Long-Term Conservation Agriculture based Maize-Wheat System

Context: Agricultural field experiments are costly and time-consuming, and their site-specific nature limits their ability to capture spatial and temporal variability. This hinders the transfer of crop management information across different locations, impeding effective agricultural decision-making. Further, accurate estimates of the benefits and risks of alternative crop and nutrient management options are crucial for effective decision-making in agriculture. Objective: The objective of this study was to utilize the Crop Environment Resource Synthesis CERES-Wheat model to simulate crop growth, yield, and nitrogen dynamics in a long-term conservation agriculture (CA) based wheat system. The study aimed to calibrate the model using data from a field experiment conducted during the 2019-20-2020-21 growing seasons and evaluation it with independent data from the year 2021–22. Method: Crop simulation models, such as the Crop Environment Resource Synthesis CERES-Wheat (DSSAT v 4.8), may provide valuable insights into crop growth and nitrogen dynamics, enabling decision makers to understand and manage production risk more effectively. Therefore, the present study employed the CERES-Wheat (DSSAT v 4.8) model and calibrated it using field data, including plant phenological phases, leaf area index, aboveground biomass, and grain yield from the 2019-20-2020-21 growing seasons. An independent dataset from the year 2021–22 was used for model evaluation. The model was used to investigate the relationship between growing degree days (GDD), temperature, nitrate and ammonical concentration in soil, and nitrogen uptake by the crop. Additionally, the study explored the impact of contrasting tillage practices and fertilizer nitrogen management options on wheat yields. The experimental site is situated at ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, representing Indian Trans-Gangetic Plains Zone (28o 40’N latitude, 77o 11’E longitude and an altitude of 228 m above sea level). The treatments consist of four nitrogen management options, viz., N0 (zero nitrogen), N150 (150 kg N ha−1 through urea), GS (Green seeker based urea application) and USG (urea super granules @150 kg N ha−1 ) in two contrasting tillage systems, i.e., CA-based zero tillage (ZT) and conventional tillage (CT). Result: The outcomes exhibited favorable agreement between the model’s simulations and the observed data for crop phenology (With less than 2 days variation in 50% onset of flowering), grain and biomass yield (Root mean square error; RMSE 336 kg ha−1 and 649 kg ha−1 , respectively), and leaf area index (LAI) (RMSE 0.28 & normalized RMSE; nRMSE 6.69%). The model effectively captured the nitrate-N (NO3 −-N) dynamics in the soil profile, exhibiting a remarkable concordance with observed data, as evident from its low RMSE = 12.39 kg ha−1 and nRMSE = 13.69%. Moreover, as it successfully simulated the N balance in the production system, the nitrate leaching and ammonia volatilization pattern as described by the model are highly useful to understand these critical phenomena under both conventional tillage (CT) and CA-based Zero Tillage (ZT) treatments Conclusion: The study concludes that the DSSAT-CERES-Wheat model has significant potential to assess the impacts of tillage and nitrogen management practices on crop growth, yield, and soil nitrogen dynamics in the western IndoGangetic Plains (IGP) region. By providing reliable forecasts within the growing season, this modeling approach can facilitate better planning and more efficient resource management. Future implications: The successful implementation of the DSSAT-CERES-Wheat model in this study highlights its applicability in assessing crop performance and soil dynamics. Future research should focus on expanding the model’s capabilities by reducing its sensitivity to initial soil nitrogen levels to refine its predictions further. Moreover, the model’s integration with decision support systems and real-time data can enhance its usefulness in aiding agricultural decision-making and supporting sustainable crop management practices.
Crops, Productivity, Nitrogen, Wheat
Kumar K, Parihar CM, Sena DR, Godara S, Patra K, Sarkar A, Reddy KS, Ghasal PC, Bharadwaj S, Meena AL, Das TK, Jat SL, Sharma DK, Saharawat YS, Gathala MK, Singh U and Nayak HS (2024) Modeling the growth, yield and N dynamics of wheat for decoding the tillage and nitrogen nexus in 8-years long-term conservation agriculture based maize-wheat system. Front. Sustain. Food Syst. 8:1321472. doi: 10.3389/fsufs.2024.1321472