Substantial amounts of nitrogen (N) fertiliser are necessary for commercial sugarcane production because of the large biomass produced by sugarcane crops. Since this fertiliser is a substantial input cost and has implications if N is lost to the environment, there are pressing needs to optimize the supply of N to the crops' requirements. The complexity of the N cycle and the strong influence of climate, through its moderation of N transformation processes in the soil and its impact on N uptake by crops, make simulation-based approaches to this N management problem attractive. In this paper we describe the processes to be captured in modelling soil and plant N dynamics in sugarcane systems, and review the capability for modelling these processes. We then illustrate insights gained into improved management of N through simulation-based studies for the issues of crop residue management, irrigation management and greenhouse gas emissions. We conclude by identifying processes not currently represented in the models used for simulating N cycling in sugarcane production systems, and illustrate ways in which these can be partially overcome in the short term.
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