Modeling nitrogen loss from switchgrass agricultural systems

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A water quality modeling study was conducted to determine and compare nitrogen loss from water flow to surface water and ground water from agricultural systems growing switchgrass and cotton in the southeastern USA. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used to replicate field conditions observed at switchgrass research plots at Pee Dee Research and Educational Center at Florence, South Carolina. The plot scale modeling suggested that in the early years of growth there is significant nitrogen loss from switchgrass to streamflow and groundwater but the loss is significantly less as the switchgrass matures. During the second year of growth the modeled nitrogen loss from switchgrass was approximately 50% that of cotton. The long term nitrogen loss over the lifetime of switchgrass was approximately 10% that of cotton. The results also indicate that the use of computational models to quantify nitrogen fluxes in Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of agricultural systems growing switchgrass gives a more accurate representation of the system than using constant emission factors.

Research Areas: 
Panicumvirgatum L.
Gossypiumhirsutum L.
Land use change
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Biomass and Bioenergy
Date Published: 
October 15, 2011
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Full Citation: 
Sarkar, Saumya, Shelie A. Miller, James R. Frederick, James F. Chamberlain. (2011) “Modeling nitrogen loss from switchgrass agricultural systems.” Biomass and Bioenergy 35(10): 4381-4389.
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