Publication Details

Category Text Publication
Reference Category Journals
DOI 10.1186/s13705-016-0077-9
Title (Primary) Modelling the effect of different agricultural practices on stream nitrogen load in central Germany
Author Jomaa, S.; Jiang, S.; Thraen, D.; Rode, M.
Source Titel Energy, Sustainability and Society
Year 2016
Volume 6
Page From art. 11
Language englisch
Keywords HYPE model; Stream nitrogen load; Nitrate-N (NO3-N); Bioenergy; Land use change; Agricultural practices
UFZ wide themes RU2;


Understanding the response of nitrogen fluxes to changes in land use and agricultural practices is crucial for improving the instream water quality prediction. In central Germany, the expansion of bioenergy crops during the last decade led to an increase in fertiliser application rates. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of agricultural management changes on the stream nitrogen load of a drinking water reservoir catchment (Weida, 99.5 km2) using a hydrological water quality model.


The semi-distributed hydrological water quality model—the HYdrological Predictions for the Environment (HYPE)—was calibrated and validated successfully for discharge and nitrate-N concentrations during the period 1997–2003 (the lowest discharge Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) was 0.78). Subsequently, stream nitrogen load of six different land use scenarios and their associated agricultural practice changes were compared to the baseline simulations of the period 2006–2009. Some of these scenarios were designed considering the increased cultivation of bioenergy crops.


Results revealed that an increase in mineral fertiliser by 20 % for all crops augmented an increase of monthly stream nitrogen loads in the range of 2–6 % compared to the baseline simulations. Also, it was found that stream nitrogen load increased in scenarios where all or some crop areas were converted to maize and rape, which are the established bioenergy crops in Germany. The increase of nitrogen load resulting from these scenarios differed in terms of magnitude and their temporal patterns, reflecting the importance of timing, the amount of fertiliser applications, and harvesting periods. However, results showed that nitrogen load was reduced in situations when only organic farming or summer barley was used and when rape and maize cropping areas were converted to winter wheat.


In this intensively used agricultural catchment, the simulated stream nitrate-N loads quickly responded to fertiliser application changes (increase/decrease). This rapid response could be explained by short residence time of the interflow and baseflow runoff components because of the hardrock geological properties of the catchment.

Persistent UFZ Identifier
Jomaa, S., Jiang, S., Thraen, D., Rode, M. (2016):
Modelling the effect of different agricultural practices on stream nitrogen load in central Germany
Energy Sustain. Soc. 6 , art. 11 10.1186/s13705-016-0077-9