International Conference on Four Decades of Progress in Monitoring and Modeling of Processes in the Soil-Plant-Atmosphere System location:Naples, Italy date:june 19-21, 2013
Nitrate leaching decreases crop available N and increases water contamination. Replacing fallow by cover crops (CC) is an alternative to reduce nitrate contamination, because it reduces overall drainage and soil mineral N accumulation. A study of the soil N and nitrate leaching was conducted during 5 years in a semi-arid irrigated agricultural area of Central Spain. Three treatments were studied during the intercropping period of maize (Zea mays L.): barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), vetch (Vicia villosa L.), and fallow. Cover crops, sown in October, were killed by glyphosate application in March, allowing direct seeding of maize in April. All treatments were irrigated and fertilised following the same procedure. Soil water content was measured using capacity probes. Soil Nmin accumulation was determined along the soil profile before sowing and after harvesting maize. Soil analysis was conducted at six depths every 0.20 m in each plot in samples from 0 to 1.2-m depth. The mechanistic water balance model WAVE  was applied in order to calculate drainage and plant growth of the different treatments, and apply them to the N balance. We evaluated the water balance of this model using the daily soil water content measurements of this field trial. A new Matlab version of the model was evaluated as well. In this new version improvements were made in the solute transport module and crop module. In addition, this new version is more compatible with external modules for data processing, inverse calibration and uncertainty analysis than the previous Fortran version. The model showed that drainage during the irrigated period was minimized in all treatments, because irrigation water was adjusted to crop needs, leading to nitrate accumulation on the upper layers after maize harvest. Then, during the intercrop period, most of the nitrate leaching occurred. Cover crops usually led to a shorter drainage period, lower drainage water amount and lower nitrate leaching than the treatment with fallow. These effects resulted in larger nitrate accumulation in the upper layers of the soil after CC treatments.