Effects of estimating soil hydraulic properties and root growth factor on soil water balance and crop production

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Accurate simulation of plant growth depends not only on plant parameters, but also on soil parameters. Although there is uncertainty in measured soil parameters and root distributions, their effects on simulated plant growth have been much less studied. This study evaluates the simulated responses of six crops, wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), maize (Zea mays L.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.), peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.), and chickpea (Cicer arietinum L.), under various water and N management to different methods of estimating soil hydraulic properties and soil root growth factor (SRGF) in root zone water quality model (RZWQM2) that contains the decision support system for agrotechnology transfer (DSSAT) Version 4.0 plant growth models. The two methods of obtaining the soil water retention curve (SWRC) in RZWQM2 were based on (i) known soil water contents at both 33 and 1500 kPa suctions, or (ii) soil water content at 33 kPa only. The two methods of estimating saturated hydraulic conductivity (Ksat) were (i) soil texture class based average Ksat or (ii) Ksat calculated from effective porosity (difference between soil water contents at saturation and at 33 kPa). For the six crops, simulation results showed that the soil water balance was affected more by Ksat than by SWRC, whereas the simulated crop growth was affected by both Ksat and SWRC. Small variations in the SRGF did not affect soil and crop simulations, and SRGF could be estimated with a simple exponential equation.

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