Numerical modelling of runoff mitigation

Results from maize field trials with runoff and erosion mitigation measures using an innovative numerical modelling technique.

Stephan Sittig1, Robin Sur2, and Dirk Baets3
1 knoell Germany GmbH, Mannheim, Germany
2 Bayer AG Division Crop Science, Monheim, Germany
3 Bayer AG Division Crop Science, Machelen, Belgium

Runoff and erosion are the most important transport pathways of water, sediment, and associated pesticides from sloped agricultural fields. This results in the loss of fertile topsoil material, nutrients, irrigation water, and plant protection products (PPP) into adjacent surface water bodies. In the European and US risk assessment for the registration of PPP, runoff and erosion are numerically calculated with the simulation Pesticide Root Zone Model (PRZM) using the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) runoff curve number (CN) concept for the water movement and the MUSS equation to quantify the sediment transfer.


This work presents an evaluation of maize field trials conducted in three seasons that considered micro‐dams (i.e., small earthen dams between the rows; also known as “furrow diking,” “furrow damming,” etc.) and/or conservation tillage (via subsoiling) as mitigation measures to investigate the effects on the reduction in runoff and erosion. Measured quantitative reductions and event‐wise calculated CN are presented. Furthermore, the trials were simulated using the PRZM over the complete vegetation period and runoff CN as well as parameter values of the MUSS erosion equation (a relative adaptation of the C‐factor) were inversely estimated. Compared with the control plots (i.e., conventional tillage), micro‐dams or conservation tillage reduced runoff by 24%–71% or 69%–89%, and erosion by 54%–81% or 91%–98%. Based on these data, a robust case can be made to lower CN or parameters in the MUSS equation for surface water exposure scenarios to consider the effects on predicted environmental concentrations (PECs) and estimated environmental concentrations (EECs).

Mean resulting CN reductions by micro‐dams or conservation tillage were ascertained to be 6% (±2.5%) or 12% (±3.0%), the C‐factor was reduced by a factor of 0.1 (±0.15) or 0.48 (±0.19). Example calculations show reductions in the ranges of 11%–100% for PECs and 30%–98% for EECs.

Read the full publication published on SETAC online library.