Modelling of adaptation processes of crops to water and nitrogen stress

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In the early 1980s the author published interpretations of his observations on special adaptation processes of crops ("Zichy" experiment). Those days it was not yet possible to include these details into a crop model. The knowledge has grown about the systems of crops and their environment, now it is appropriate to test those hypothesis by systems models. The 4M system model used in this study was developed by RISSAC modelling team lead by the author. 4M is based on CERES model family and the advices of the "father" of CERES, J.T. Ritchie. 4M aimsto include a lot of results from Hungarian agricultural research. Some observations of "Zichy" experiment needed explanations but there were shortages of information on some parts of the system in order to test the hypothesis. Observations were as it follows: (1) The growth of above ground maize biomass slowed down in both years after a heavyrainyperiod. (2) Following the rainyperiod there was a fast drop of nitrate content in the soil and (3) following this time the water content of soil decreased with a fast rate approaching the wilting point. (4) When maize reacted on the emerging water stress there was a second (and even deeper) slow down of growth of above ground biomass. (5) The consequences of the stormy period was more dramatic in the second year of the experiment (1979), there was 3tha-1 loss of biomass and 2.5 tha-1 loss of grain yield relative to 1978. (6) There was a significant difference in the time of stormy rain: in 1978 it occurred post-anthesis while in 1979 it occurred just prior to anthesis. Hypothesis tested here were as it follows: (1) The cause of observed growth stress reaction was a fast nitrate leaching from the rooted zone. (2) The crops cannot take up all the mineral nitrogen measured in a soil probe, the major limit is the mass flow to the roots controlled by transpiration and nitrogen concentration of soil solution. (3) "Leaching of soil by a flush of rain leads to increased the rate of transpiration in a developed crop stand". (4) The very well fertilized ("spoiled") plants had weak root system. In N and water stress the plant changed its carbon distribution to the advantage of root growth, and as a result, the above ground growth slowed down. (5) Pre-anthesis N deficiency had set a limit for later compensation of yield that can be simulated by poor fertilization of grains. New process model components are introduced and tested here as it follows: (1) algorithm for N uptake using the concept of mass flow to the roots controlled by transpiration and nitrogen concentration of soil solution, (2) changes of distribution and redistribution pattern of assimilates to different plant organs influenced by nitrogen and water stress, (3) modification of grain numbers controlled by N stress prior to anthesis. Results showed that hypotheses 1 and 3 was false, hypothesis 2 is true but needs modifications taking the behavior of NH4 into consideration, hypotheses 4 and 5 are true but more evidences are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-216
Number of pages8
JournalPhysics and Chemistry of the Earth
Issue number1-3 SPEC. ISS.
Publication statusPublished - Feb 11 2005



  • 4M
  • Maize
  • Mass flow
  • Simulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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