Technology is bringing precision agriculture one-step closer to widespread use
USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientists at the George E. Brown, Jr. Salinity Laboratory, Riverside, California, have developed general guidelines for soil mapping using mobile equipment. This advanced technology is valuable for looking at changes in soil quality over time; including the presence of pollutants such as salts, pesticides, and fertilizers; and for use in precision agriculture to determine areas that are to be managed to maximize yield, minimize environmental impacts, and optimize the use of resources.
Soil is a very diverse media, which can vary from one point to the next in its chemical and physical makeup. Many of these soil properties influence crop yield and can cause yield variations within fields. These soil properties also influence how pollutants move through soil and get into the groundwater or runoff into lakes and streams.
One useful means of mapping these changes is using mobile equipment to measure several soil properties simultaneously. In order to determine where to take the optimum number of soil samples that will characterize the patterns in soil properties within a field, information is first obtained through the use of a global positioning system (GPS). Using statistical software developed by Scott Lesch of the Salinity Laboratory, maps of soil properties are then created by a geographic information system (GIS). These maps are used to guide management decisions for precision agriculture.
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