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The PILOTE-N model for improving water and nitrogen management practices: Application in a Mediterranean context

Mailhol J.C., Albasha R., Cheviron B., Lopez J.M., Ruelle P., Dejean C.. 2018. Agricultural Water Management, 204 : p. 162-179.

DOI: 10.1016/j.agwat.2018.04.015

In this paper we present PILOTE-N, a crop model devoted to the calculation of crop production from the joint water and nitrogen soil status effects. It is the extension of PILOTE, for contexts in which water might not be the sole limiting factor for crop yield, but the same model structure and credo of parsimonious parameterisation have been kept, assuming simplified descriptions of the physical processes at play. One original aspect of PILOTE-N is the calculation of Leaf Area Index (LAI) and cumulative nitrogen plant demand from similar logistictype functions. LAI is controlled by specific temperature sums, shape parameters and the occurrence of water and nitrogen stresses, while the time average of LAI values over critical phenological periods also affects the predicted harvest index and crop yield. As specific plant parameters are known from PILOTE, calibration was devoted to nitrogen parameters. Which governing the daily-averaged mineralization rate in a first step, then the two shape parameters of the potential nitrogen plant demand (from the dilution curve) in a second step and, at last, which allowing the link between nitrogen uptake and nitrogen of the soil. Model performance was evaluated using multiple initial soil conditions, irrigation and fertilization strategies for corn, durum wheat and sorghum, over a climatic series of 14 years, at the experimental plot of Lavalette (Montpellier, South-East of France), hence in a Mediterranean context characterized by severe, water stresses during summer, typically exceeding nitrogen stresses. Crop yield as well as the dynamics of nitrogen budget were correctly simulated (R2 > 0.94 for grain yield, total dry matter and nitrogen in plant). The robustness of such a simple and easy-tocalibrate tool is expected to facilitate its use and implementation in other agro-pedoclimatic contexts, to decipher the effect of abiotic stresses and improve irrigation and fertilization scenarios when included in dedicated tools.

Mots-clés : modélisation des cultures; modèle de simulation; bilan hydrique du sol; stress abiotique; irrigation; besoin en eau; indice de surface foliaire; azote assimilable par la plante; fertilisation

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