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Site-specific land management of cereal crops based on proximal soil sensing

Student Report No. 35

Site-specific land management of cereal crops based on proximal soil sensing

by

Graham Halcro

Cranfield University, College Road, Cranfield, Bedford MK43 0AL

 

Abstract

Precision agriculture holds the promise of enhancing input efficiency while reducing adverse environmental effects and increasing the economic benefits of farming. Soil is a complex medium and can be said to have infinite variation. A key aspect of this goal is the adoption of advances in technology and science to improve the evaluation of soil spatial variability. For practical purposes, areas of homogeneity within a field, management zones, can be delineated by inclusion of several soil attributes such as texture, nutrient levels and topography. These distinct units (or management zones) can then be managed in the most appropriate way by the grower.

In this project, a more innovative approach was used in order to improve the performance of management zones delineation. The method employed a mobile, visible and near-infrared spectroscopy (vis-NIRS) sensor system to obtain fine-scale information about the spatial variability of main influential soil properties. This data was combined with in-season measurements of crop growth using data fusion techniques to provide management zones which better reflect the yield potential of different areas within the field. The effectiveness of the innovative approach was compared with the traditional method of management zones delineation by using them to inform a variable-rate and a homogeneous-rate application of nitrate fertiliser in adjacent strip-trials over growing seasons.

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