Application of Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to evaluate the fates of nitrogenous fertilizer in subtropical mountainous watershed tea farms

Guan Zhou Lin, Shao Yiu Hsu, Chia Chun Ho, Chi Feng Chen, Jr Chuan Huang, Tsung Yu Lee*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Extensive nutrient loss is one of the most challenging issues faced by agricultural production regions worldwide. However, diffuse pollution in the subtropical mountainous watersheds is rarely simulated. A watershed model with regional parameter values is essential for watershed management. In this study, SWAT, one of the most popular models was applied to simulate daily discharge (years of 2008–2014), NO3-N flux (2012–2014), and tea yield (2012–2014) in the Ping-Lin watershed (PLW) of Taiwan, as well as to test the effectiveness of a modified fertilization strategy. The results demonstrated that SWAT was capable of simulating daily discharge variation, daily riverine NO3-N flux, and tea yield in the PLW. NO3-N yield of the tea farm (47 kg/ha/yr) was 9 times higher than that of the forest (5.1 kg/ha/yr). A significant proportion (~ 50%) of the input nitrogen (including dry/wet deposition and fertilizer) infiltrated into the soil, resulting in a poor fertilizer uptake efficiency of the tea tree. It was demonstrated that the modified fertilization strategy (apply fertilizer in small rainfall event, i.e., daily rainfall < 20 mm/day, and not in a single day) could increase the nitrogen uptake and harvest yield of the tea tree by 14% and 4%, respectively, with a 10% reduction in nitrogen input. Furthermore, this strategy significantly reduced the nitrogen yields from surface flow (75%), lateral flow (36%), percolation (50%), and groundwater (48%). A popular model with verified parameter values could help in developing a win–win strategy for both farmers and regulators, thus realizing the goals of sustainable agricultural practices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number213
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Volume194
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar

Keywords

  • Diffuse pollution
  • Fertilization strategy
  • Nitrate flux
  • Sustainable agricultural practices
  • Taiwan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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