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Title: Predicting crop yields and soil‐plant nitrogen dynamics in the US Corn Belt
Abstract

We used the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM) to predict and explain maize and soybean yields, phenology, and soil water and nitrogen (N) dynamics during the growing season in Iowa, USA. Historical, current and forecasted weather data were used to drive simulations, which were released in public four weeks after planting. In this paper, we (1) describe the methodology used to perform forecasts; (2) evaluate model prediction accuracy against data collected from 10 locations over four years; and (3) identify inputs that are key in forecasting yields and soil N dynamics. We found that the predicted median yield at planting was a very good indicator of end‐of‐season yields (relative root mean square error [RRMSE] of ∼20%). For reference, the prediction at maturity, when all the weather was known, had a RRMSE of 14%. The good prediction at planting time was explained by the existence of shallow water tables, which decreased model sensitivity to unknown summer precipitation by 50–64%. Model initial conditions and management information accounted for one‐fourth of the variation in maize yield. End of season model evaluations indicated that the model simulated well crop phenology (R= 0.88), root depth (R= 0.83), biomass production (R= 0.93), grain yield (R= 0.90), plant N uptake (R= 0.87), soil moisture (R= 0.42), soil temperature (R= 0.93), soil nitrate (R= 0.77), and water table depth (R= 0.41). We concluded that model set‐up by the user (e.g. inclusion of water table), initial conditions, and early season measurements are very important for accurate predictions of soil water, N and crop yields in this environment.

 
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NSF-PAR ID:
10450768
Author(s) / Creator(s):
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Publisher / Repository:
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Crop Science
Volume:
60
Issue:
2
ISSN:
0011-183X
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 721-738
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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See protocol for more information, refer to link (http://lter.kbs.msu.edu/datatables/36) For maize biomass, grain and whole biomass reported in the paper (weed biomass or surface litter are excluded). Surface litter biomass not included in any crops; weed biomass not included in switchgrass and miscanthus, but included in grass mixture and prairie. fraction    Fraction of biomass biomass_plot    biomass per plot on dry-weight basis (Grams_Per_SquareMeter) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying column biomass per plot with 0.01 3. Spreadsheet: biomass_poplar Description: Maximum aboveground biomass measurements from poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2015. Data shown in Figure 2. Note that poplar biomass was estimated from crop growth curves until the poplar was harvested in the winter of 2013-14. Variate    Description year    year of the observation method    methods of poplar biomass sampling date    day of the observation (mm/dd/yyyy) replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 diameter_at_ground    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at the ground diameter_at_15cm    poplar diameter (milliMeter) at 15 cm height biomass_tree    biomass per plot (Grams_Per_Tree) biomass_ha    biomass (megaGrams_Per_Hectare) by multiplying biomass per tree with 0.01 4. Spreadsheet: annual N leaching_vol-wtd conc Description: Annual leaching rate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) and volume-weighted mean N concentrations (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) of nitrate (no3) and dissolved organic nitrogen (don) in the leachate samples collected from corn, switchgrass, miscanthus, native grass, restored prairie and poplar plots in Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) Biomass Cropping System Experiment (BCSE) during 2009-2016. Data for nitrogen leached and volume-wtd mean N concentration shown in Figure 3a and Figure 3b, respectively. Note that ammonium (nh4) concentration were much lower and often undetectable (<0.07 milliGrams_N_Per_Liter). Also note that in 2009 and 2010 crop-years, data from some replicates are missing.    Variate    Description crop    “corn” “switchgrass” “miscanthus” “nativegrass” “restored prairie” “poplar” crop-year    year of the observation replicate    each crop has four replicated plots, R1, R2, R3 and R4 no3 leached    annual leaching rates of nitrate (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) don leached    annual leaching rates of don (kiloGrams_N_Per_Hectare) vol-wtd no3 conc.    Volume-weighted mean no3 concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) vol-wtd don conc.    Volume-weighted mean don concentration (milliGrams_N_Per_Liter) 5. 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