Assessing the Impact of Contour Strips of Perennial Grass with Bio-fuel Potentials on Aquatic Environment
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Assessing the Impact of Contour Strips of Perennial Grass with Bio-fuel Potentials on Aquatic Environment

Authors: Roy R. Gu, Mahesh Sahu


The use of contour strips of perennial vegetation with bio-fuel potential can improve surface water quality by reducing NO3-N and sediment outflow from cropland to surface water-bodies. It also has economic benefits of producing ethanol. In this study, The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was applied to a watershed in Iowa, USA to examine the effectiveness of contour strips of switch grass in reducing the NO3-N outflows from crop fields to rivers or lakes. Numerical experiments were conducted to identify potential subbasins in the watershed that have high water quality impact, and to examine the effects of strip size on NO3-N reduction under various meteorological conditions, i.e. dry, average and wet years. Useful information was obtained for the evaluation of economic feasibility of growing switch grass for bio-fuel in contour strips. The results can assist in cost-benefit analysis and decisionmaking in best management practices for environmental protection.

Keywords: ethanol, modeling, water quality, NO3-N, watershed.

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