Tuesday 2 August 2016

Reduce the Cost of Nutrient Loss with Precision Ag (Part 2 of 3)

In the last blog post we looked at nutrients and how Precision Ag can help with your Farm Environment Plans (FEP). This blog post looks at how an EM survey can help with identifying your soil types for your Farm Environment Plan.

An EM survey illustrates the relative variability in soil characteristics including soil texture that can be potentially related to water holding properties within that soil profile, this can help you manage water application through the use of variable rate irrigation technology. When combined with the use of soil moisture probes you have the data and technology you need to be able to retain nutrients within the soil profile itself. 

EM surveys can be ground-truthed to find the correlation between the EM value and water holding capacity (WHC).  From that you can create a WHC map and site-specifically place moisture probes to monitor the soil moisture levels within each identified zone.

Ground-truthing sites are identified within each zone (shown on the left). The graph illustrates the correlation between the EM values and WHC in the top 55cm of the soil profile for this paddock.
In the image above we can see the correlation between EM value and WHC at this site has an R2 of 0.97 (R2 quantifies goodness of fit. It is a fraction between 0.0 and 1.0, higher values indicate that the model fits the data better). We can then use the equation in VA Gateway, one of the PA software platforms supported by Agri Optics, to create a water holding capacity (WHC) map out of the EM values map.

The EM map converted into a Water Holding Capacity map
This water holding capacity map can then be used in conjunction with soil moisture probes and VRI to maintain the moisture levels between field capacity and critical moisture. This not only reduces any potential yield loss from moisture stress but it also ensures that you aren't saturating the soil profile, and therefore avoid leaching nutrients out of the root zone.

It’s all about balancing crop requirements, real-time moisture levels, rainfall (when it comes!) and application rates with irrigation return times as precisely as possible to keep everything at an optimum level.

An AquaCheck soil moisture probe graph showing soil moisture levels and how they are affected my irrigation or rain events on this soil profile.
As can be seen above by keeping the moisture between upper and lower readily available water levels you ensure yield isn’t compromised and eliminate leaching. The rooting depth used for the probe profile can be tailored to the crops specific needs on the moisture monitoring website.

Next time we will discuss how the EM maps and topography data can help you with your FEP.

Chris Smith

Agri Optics NZ Ltd