Simulating soil nutrient dynamics (Melkonian Program)

Program or topic

Melkonian Program: Simulating soil nutrient dynamics

Department(s) or unit(s)

Department of Crop and Soil Sciences

Contact information

Jeffrey Melkonian
Senior Research Associate, Crop and Soil Science

Program goals

Application of simulation modeling to better understand how climate change will impact nutrient dynamics in agricultural systems.

Brief Description

Soil nitrogen (N) availability is one of the main factors limiting crop production in many agricultural systems. The application of N fertilizers (both mineral and organic) are critical to increase crop yields. However, these fertilizers are often used inefficiently and N losses associated with the use of these fertilizers have contributed to the deterioration of water quality worldwide. In addition, the possible impacts of climate change on N losses associated with agricultural production are not well understood. Dynamic simulation models of the soil/crop/atmosphere system are tools that can be used to assess N losses associated with crop production, identify possible management alternatives to improve N use efficiency in crop production and provide insight into the impact of future climate on agricultural N use and N losses. Melkonian is investigating the role of N and water in crop and soil systems by applying dynamic simulation modeling combined with field ex. Goals of Melkonian’s research include assessing the yield potential of different land use categories (e.g., current crop land, marginal or underused land) for crops, including bioenergy crops, testing alternative strategies for nutrient and water management in agriculture to reduce negative environmental impacts, using dynamic simulation modeling to investigate yield gaps in crop production and using dynamic simulation models of the soil/plant/atmosphere continuum to design more targeted and fruitful experimental strategies.

Such models are leading to the development of tools such as Adapt-N, which helps farmers determine the most efficient nitrogen fertilizer sidedress rate for corn. Developed in collaboration with the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, the Northeast Regional Climatic Center, and the Center for Advanced Computing, Adapt-N accounts for changes in soil N due to early season weather and adjusts the in-season N recommendations accordingly.

For more information


Key publications:

  • Melkonian, J., H.M. van Es, A. DeGaetano, J. Sogbedji, L. Joseph. 2007. Application of dynamic simulation modeling for nitrogen management in maize. Managing Crop Nitrogen for Weather (Proceedings of the 2006 SSSA Symposium “Integrating Weather Variability into Nitrogen Recommendations”). International Plant Nutrition Institute. (In publication)
  • Melkonian, J., S. J. Riha, J. Robin and E. Levine. 2007. Comparisons of measured stream flow with drainage and runoff simulated by a soil-vegetation-atmosphere transport model parameterized with GLOBE student data. Journal of Hydrology. 333:214-225.

Category: Bio-energy/-fuel/-gas, Conservation, Entomology, Freshwater, Greenhouse gasses, aerosols, Horticulture

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