Modeling Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Water Dynamics in Greenhouse and Nursery Production Systems
Majsztrik, John Christopher
Lea-Cox, John D.
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Nutrient and sediment runoff from the six states and Washington, DC that form the Chesapeake Bay watershed is a major cause of environmental degradation in the Bay and its tributaries. Agriculture contributes a substantial portion of these non-point source loads that reach the Bay from its tributaries. Research in this area has traditionally focused on agronomic farm contributions, with limited research on the nursery and greenhouse industry. This research presents the first known attempt to model operation-specific information, validated by published research data, where multiple variables are assessed simultaneously. This research provides growers and researchers with a tool to assess and understand the cultural and environmental impact of current practices, and predict the impact of improving those practices. Separate models were developed for greenhouse, container-nursery and field-nursery operations, since specific production variables and management practices vary. Each model allows for simple entry of production input variables, which interface with the Stella modeling layer. Each model was first calibrated with one published research study, and subsequently validated with another peer-reviewed study, with multiple independent runs for each model. Validation results for all three models showed consistent agreement between model outputs and published results, increasing confidence that models accurately process all input data. Verified models were then used to run a number of what-if scenarios, based upon a database of production practices that was gathered from 48 nursery and greenhouse operations in Maryland. This database provided a detailed analysis of current practices in Maryland, and adds significantly to our understanding of various operational practices in these horticultural industries. Results of the what-if scenarios highlighted model sensitivities and provided answers to hypotheses developed from the analysis of the management database. Some model functions, such as denitrification, would greatly benefit from additional research and further model modification. Models were designed to be easily adapted to local conditions for use throughout the U.S. and potentially other parts of the world.