Estimating deep drainage and nitrate leaching from the root zone under sugarcane using APSIM-SWIM

L. Stewart, P.B. Charlesworth, Keith Bristow, P.J. Thorburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The Burdekin Delta (BD) is located on the dry-tropical coastal strip in North Queensland, Australia. It is one of Australia's premier sugar producing districts with approximately 40,000 ha of land under sugarcane. Because the BD borders the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA), industry, community, regulatory, and environmental organisations are interested in ascertaining the magnitude of deep drainage and nitrate leaching from the root zone and potential implications for the GBRWHA.Direct measurement of deep drainage and nitrate leaching is difficult, and modelling is likely to play an ever-increasing role in guiding experimental work and decision-making. Here, we describe the collection of drainage and nitrate-leaching related data collected over two cropping seasons at a specific field site within the BD and its use in the calibration and application of a drainage and nitrate-leaching model created within the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) modelling framework with constituent crop-growth, soil'water, and nitrogen transformation modules (Sugar, APSIM-SWIM, Soiln2).Model application indicated that the simulated amount of drainage and nitrate leached over a cropping season compared favourably to that derived from inferred drainage and observed soil'water nitrate concentrations. Subsequent investigation of fertilizer management options using the model identified the timing and amount of both irrigation and fertilizer application as key parameters over which management control might be exploited to minimise deep drainage and flux of nitrate to groundwater.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-334
Number of pages20
JournalAgricultural Water Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2005

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