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Assessing the Soil Carbon, Biomass Production, and Nitrous Oxide Emission Impact of Corn Stover Management for Bioenergy Feedstock Production Using DAYCENT

Eleanor E. Campbell, Jane M. F. Johnson, Virginia L. Jin, R. Michael Lehman, Shannon L. Osborne, Gary E. Varvel, Keith Paustian
BioEnergy research 2014 v.7 no.2 pp. 491-502
harvesting, nitrous oxide, bioenergy industry, feedstocks, biomass production, corn stover, grain yield, soil, models, bioenergy, conventional tillage, soil organic carbon, decision support systems, emissions, gas emissions, simulation models, model validation
Harvesting crop residue needs to be managed to protect agroecosystem health and productivity. DAYCENT, a process-based modeling tool, may be suited to accommodate region-specific factors and provide regional predictions for a broad array of agroecosystem impacts associated with corn stover harvest. Grain yield, soil C, and N₂O emission data collected at Corn Stover Regional Partnership experimental sites were used to test DAYCENT performance modeling the impacts of corn stover removal. DAYCENT estimations of stover yields were correlated and reasonably accurate (adjusted r² = 0.53, slope = 1.18, p << 0.001, intercept = 0.36, p = 0.11). Measured and simulated average grain yields across sites did not differ as a function of residue removal, but the model tended to underestimate average measured grain yields. Modeled and measured soil organic carbon (SOC) change for all sites were correlated (adjusted r² = 0.54, p << 0.001), but DAYCENT overestimated SOC loss with conventional tillage. Simulated and measured SOC change did not vary by residue removal rate. DAYCENT simulated annual N₂O flux more accurately at low rates (≤2-kg N₂O-N ha⁻¹ year⁻¹) but underestimated when emission rates were >3-kg N₂O-N ha⁻¹ year⁻¹. Overall, DAYCENT performed well at simulating stover yields and low N₂O emission rates, reasonably well when simulating the effects of management practices on average grain yields and SOC change, and poorly when estimating high N₂O emissions. These biases should be considered when DAYCENT is used as a decision support tool for recommending sustainable corn stover removal practices to advance bioenergy industry based on corn stover feedstock material.