Wednesday, 10 August 2016

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

In the last two blogs we looked at how Precision Ag can help with managing the nutrient and moisture levels in the soil profile. This blog looks at how an EM survey can assist in relation to the physical characteristics of the land for your farm environment plan.

As an EM survey is conducted, the readings are logged by 2 cm horizontally accurate RTK GPS. This allows us to not only build a great picture of your soil profile but also the surface of the area surveyed as well. This in its own right can be a very powerful tool for overall land management and also the farm environment plan. As the flow of water can cause the movement of soil and nutrients.

With this layer of data we can make 3D contour or water flow maps. So you can see where water will move in a rain or irrigation event and where potential areas of soil/nutrient issues may occur, so buffer zones may be necessary to mitigate this potential problem.

Picture 1: 3D elevation map showing the potential water flow across the area.
Our software platform, VA Gateway, can model the flow of water and we make an animated model of how the surface water will react over time. On the first image (picture 2) below you can see the surface water after a rain event then moving down the images how the water moves from the higher area and ponds in others. This sort of information is of great use to the client for highlighting potential issue zones.

Picture 2: Simulator showing the water flow after a large rain event.
Picture 3: The water is flowing from the higher areas.
Picture 4: The water is ponding in the low lying areas.
With variable rate irrigation application maps on ‘hilly’ land we can combine the EM and slope maps, to take into consideration the severity of slope over the EM. That is to say it may be a soil type that requires a higher water rate but when you take into consideration the degree of slope, then higher application rates would be moving down the slope as well infiltrating the soil profile, so therefore a lower application rate is needed on the steeper sloped areas to reduce the chance of runoff. By managing the potential flow of water across your property you are also managing the movement of soil and nutrients.

Picture 5: At the top left the EM zone map, on the bottom left the slope map. On the right the two maps have been combined to form an application map using both characteristics.
In Picture 5, on the right side is the application map where is red low EM, green Medium EM and blue high EM - the matt colours indicate low slope, the bright colours higher slope.

So with the use of Precision Ag you can gather very comprehensive maps showing the levels variability in nutrient levels, in soil characteristics and in topography for your property. By measuring these variables you can then monitor them and manage them, which are prime requisites for your farm environment plan.

Agri Optics NZ Ltd