Development of solute transport model and an application to describe field scale nitrogen processes

Research output: ThesisMaster's thesisTheses


In Finland, almost 60% of anthropogenic nitrogen (N) load originates from agriculture. In clayey fields, large pores, i.e. macropores, enable preferential flow and transport of dissolved nitrogen fractions from the tillage layer to subsurface drains. Models, which are able to describe hydrology and solute transport in clayey fields, are needed to evaluate factors that affect nutrient loading from cultivated fields.
In this study, a new, generic, three-dimensional (3D) numerical model was developed to describe solute transport on the field surface and underlying soil layers. Hydrological and water quality data from the Nummela experimental field in southern Finland was applied in the development phase. The transport model was integrated into the 3D hydrological FLUSH model, which simulates water flow and soil erosion in clayey, subdrained cultivated fields in northern latitudes. The solute transport model can simultaneously describe movement and reactions of several solutes in the soil matrix and macropore systems. Transport of solutes is simulated with advection and dispersion mechanisms in the pore systems, and the same transport processes are applied to depict mass exchange between the pore systems. Solute transport on the field surface is described with advection. Adsorption of solutes in the subsurface system is based on the equilibrium adsorption approach using linear, Freudlich or Langmuir isotherm. It is possible to create reaction chains between solutes, where decaying solute is transformed into another solute in the simulation. The reaction processes can be adjusted with moisture and heat based limiters. The partial differential equation that describes overland transport is solved by iteration. Equations for the 3D transport in the subsurface profile are solved with the pentadiagonal matrix algorithm and horizontal fluxes by iteration. The numerical model was parallelized with the MPI application interface.
An N transport model was developed from the generic solute transport model. The model was evaluated by simulating N processes during two autumn periods (2008 and 2011) in clayey field sections (1,3 and 3,4 ha) in the Nummela field. Simulations described transport of ammonium and nitrate in 1D soil profiles. N fractions were lost via tillage layer runoff, drainflow and horizontal groundwater outflow. In the application, transport of nitrogen fractions was affected by mineralisation, nitrification and denitrification reactions together with equilibrium sorption of ammonium. The model was able to simulate the dynamic increase of nitrate concentration in drainflow in the autumns, and the simulated ammonium concentrations in the drainflow were in the same order of magnitude as the concentrations derived from water sample analysis. Processes of the transport model were also evaluated with a sensitivity analysis, and the functioning of the lateral components was tested by conducting 3D simulations of nitrogen transport in the whole Nummela field area (9,2 ha).
Translated title of the contributionDevelopment of solute transport model and an application to describe field scale nitrogen processes
Original languageFinnish
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeG2 Master's thesis, polytechnic Master's thesis


  • Solute transport
  • modelling
  • nitrogen

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