Integrated BIosphere Simulator (IBIS) yield and nitrate loss predictions for Wisconsin maize receiving varied amounts of nitrogen fertilizer

J Environ Qual. 2003 Jan-Feb;32(1):247-68. doi: 10.2134/jeq2003.2470.


Agriculture in the U.S. Midwest faces the formidable challenge of improving crop productivity while simultaneously mitigating the environmental consequences of intense management. This study examined the simultaneous response of nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) leaching losses and maize (Zea mays L.) yield to varied fertilizer N management using field observations and the Integrated BIosphere Simulator (IBIS) model. The model was validated against six years of field observations in chisel-plowed maize plots receiving an optimal (180 kg N ha(-1)) fertilizer N application and in N-unfertilized plots on a silt loam soil near Arlington, Wisconsin. Predicted values of grain yield, harvest index, plant N uptake, residue C to N ratio, leaf area index (LAI), grain N, and drainage were within 20% of observations. However, simulated NO3-N leaching losses, NO3-N concentrations, and net N mineralization exhibited less interannual variability than observations, and had higher levels of error (20-65%). Potential effects of 30% higher (234 kg N ha(-1)) and 30% lower (126 kg N ha(-1)) fertilizer N use (from optimal) on NO3-N leaching loss and maize yield were simulated. A 30% increase in fertilizer N use increased annual NO3-N leaching by 56%, while yield increased by only 1%. The NO3-N concentration in the leachate solution at 1.4 m below the soil surface was 30.7 mg L(-1). When fertilizer N use was reduced by 30% (from optimal), annual NO3-N leaching losses declined by 42% after seven years, and annual average yield only decreased by 8%. However, NO3-N concentration in the leachate solution remained above 10 mg L(-1) (11.3 mg L(-1)). Clearly, nonlinear relationships existed between changes in fertilizer use and NO3-N leaching losses over time. Simulated changes in NO3-N leaching were greater in magnitude than fertilizer N use changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Fertilizers
  • Forecasting
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Nitrates / analysis
  • Nitrates / chemistry*
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Nitrogen / chemistry*
  • Soil Pollutants / analysis*
  • United States
  • Wisconsin
  • Zea mays


  • Fertilizers
  • Nitrates
  • Soil Pollutants
  • Nitrogen