Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems

, Volume 78, Issue 1, pp 65–81 | Cite as

Application of the DNDC model to tile-drained Illinois agroecosystems: model comparison of conventional and diversified rotations

  • Christina Tonitto
  • Mark B. David
  • Changsheng Li
  • Laurie E. Drinkwater
Original Paper


Using the DeNitrification–DeComposition (DNDC) model we compare conventional, fertilizer-driven corn–soybean rotations to alternative management scenarios which include the management of cereal rye cover crops and corn–soybean–wheat–red clover rotations. We conduct our analysis for tile-drained, silty clay loam soils of Illinois. DNDC simulations suggest that, relative to conventional rotations, a nitrate leaching reduction of 30–50% under corn and of 15–50% under soybean crops can be achieved with diversified rotations, an outcome which corroborates results from a quantitative literature review we previously conducted using a meta-analysis framework. Additionally, over a 10-year simulation, legume-fertilized systems are predicted to result in 52% lower N2O gas flux relative to fertilizer-driven systems. We identify soil organic carbon storage, legume N-fixation rate, and cereal rye cover crop growth as areas requiring further development to accurately apply DNDC to diversified cropping systems. Overall, DNDC simulation suggests diversified rotations that alternate winter and summer annuals have the potential to dramatically increase N retention in agroecosystems.


Nitrogen management Agroecosystem model Nitrate leaching N trace gas Cover crop Legume Corn Soybean 



The NSF Biocomplexity in the Environment-Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles Program and NSF Biocomplexity in the Environment-Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems provided support for this research. The authors thank Sieglinde Snapp for advice during the development of cropping files and Patrick J. Sullivan for statistical discussion, and anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina Tonitto
    • 1
  • Mark B. David
    • 2
  • Changsheng Li
    • 3
  • Laurie E. Drinkwater
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HorticultureCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  3. 3.Complex Systems Research Center, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and SpaceUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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