Modeling the temporal distribution of water, ammonium-N, and nitrate-N in the root zone of wheat using HYDRUS-2D under conservation agriculture

  • Mohammed Shafeeq Poo Madathil
  • Pramila Aggarwal
  • Prameela KrishnanEmail author
  • Vikas Rai
  • Pragati Pramanik
  • Tapas Kumar Das
Research Article


In the current study, the temporal distribution of both soil water and soil NO3–N under several conservation agriculture (CA) practices during the wheat crop growth were characterized by HYDRUS-2D model. Treatments comprised of conventional tillage (CT), permanent broad beds (PBB), zero tillage (ZT), PBB with residue (PBB+R) and ZT with residue (ZT+R). Hydraulic inputs of the model, comprising the measured value of Kfs, α and n, obtained as the output of Rosetta Lite model were optimized through inverse modeling. Model predicted the daily change in soil water content (SWC) of the profile during the simulated period (62–91 DAS) with good accuracy (R2 = 0.75; root mean squared error (RMSE) = 0.038). In general, soil water balance simulated from the model showed 50% lower cumulative drainage, 50% higher cumulative transpiration along with higher soil water retention, in PBB+R than CT. Reported values of the first-order rate constants, signify nitrification of urea to NH4–N (μa) (day−1) nitrification of NH4–N to NO3–N (μn) (day−1) and the distribution coefficient of urea (Kd—in cm3 mg−1) were optimized through inverse modeling. Later they were used as solute transport reaction input parameters of the model, to predict the daily change in NO3–N of the profile with better accuracy (R2 = 0.83; RMSE = 4.62). Since NH4–N disappears fast, it could not be measured frequently. Therefore, not enough data could be generated for their use in the calibration and validation of the model. Results of simulation of daily NO3–N concentration indicated a higher concentration of NO3–N in the surface layer and its leaching losses beyond the root zone were relatively lesser in PBB+R, than CT, which resulted in less contamination of the belowground water. Thus, the study clearly recommended PBB+R to be adopted for wheat cultivation in maize–wheat cropping system, as it enhances the water and nitrogen availability in the root zone and reduce their losses beyond the root zone.


Modeling Soil water and nitrate-N dynamics HYDRUS-2D Root water uptake Conservation agriculture Wheat 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Agricultural PhysicsIndian Agricultural Research InstituteNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Division of AgronomyIndian Agricultural Research InstituteNew DelhiIndia

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