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Understanding soil variability for effective zone management in precision Agriculture – an evaluation of sensor based soil mapping

Lead Researcher Ken Coles
Co-Researcher(s) Curt Walker, Dennis Dey, Lewis Baarda, Muhammad (Adil) Akbar, Vance Yaremko
Start Date March 2012
End Date October 2016
Funding Partners Alberta Barley Commission
Status Complete

The Challenge

There are many precision ag technologies available, but due to the complexity and cost of them, clear evidence of improved outcomes is lacking.

The Project

Evaluate the EM38 and Veris sensor-based soil mapping tools for accuracy and on-farm practicality use. Using a variety of sources to gather information on soil management zones, determine relationships between soil properties, soil moisture availability and crop yields.

The Results

The performance of EM38 and Veris soil tools were accurate and consistent. They were able to indicate the presence of clay and soil moisture but could not provide a direct estimation of spatial distribution for NPKS. The use of variable rate technology is not straight forward, rather each field is unique and requires various management strategies. Determining optimal nitrogen rates with variable rate technology was challenging due to the capacity to manage soil variability.

Grower Benefits

When developing a variable rate management strategy, more verified and effective tools must be readily available to growers. VR strategy can change per field as each field can greatly vary on its properties. Currently unable to recommend variable rate nitrogen application as a consistently effective crop management tool.

Keywords: Precision agriculture, Soil mapping, Variable Rate, VR Technology

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