Thursday, 24 May 2018

EM Surveying - The Uses

In the previous EM survey blog, I ran through the process of conducting the survey, this time I will go through some of the uses.

The data from an EM survey is very useful for irrigation in many ways. The topography data can be used for planning the pivot design itself with your irrigation provider for example working out tower spacing and pivot positioning. The angle of slope can be used to see if the pivot stays within design parameters for insurance purposes as well as design planning.

Figure 1: Contour map on top of elevation map

After the initial pivot or irrigation design plans, we can then look at the EM data itself to determine the amount of variability within the surveyed area. Within the PCT Gateway software we can look at the value and amount of the crop being grown on the area and the cost of installing variable rate irrigation (VRI). The software needs to know the average yield and value of the crop. That way using algorithms it calculates that by not over watering the heavier soli types or under watering the lighter areas you bring the crop yield on those areas up to the average. It looks at the reduction in variability by using VRI as opposed to a blanket application. In the example below the variability from using VRI drops from 30.4% to 4.68%. So, by using the average yield and the price we can see the payback vs the cost of putting VRI on your pivot.

Figure 2: Illustrating the payback from VRI, using an EM map. 

This model just looks at the costs vs savings of VRI from a production prospective. It doesn’t take into consideration savings from reduced water use, power savings, reduced track repairs etc, which will be in addition to this.
The next stage is to make VRI maps up for the pivot, using the different soil zones, predominately we use the shallow EM results. If the area has a lot of variation in topography we can also combine the elevation layers with the EM map to make an application map for the pivot. We can also use other elevation layers to achieve the best solution used for each specific survey, as required.

The map below, shows a three zone EM map, where  red is the lightest soil, green the medium textured soil and blue the heaviest soil. This has been combined with the slope map, where the darker tone indicates a slope of 0-5% and the brighter tone of colour areas where the slope is above 5%.

Figure 3: An EM map and slope map combined to make a VRI application map. Brighter red, green and blue indicate slope for the different soil zones. 

The EM zone maps can also be used for irrigation pod placement, as well as moisture probe placement. If you only have one probe under an irrigation management zone, you want to make sure its under the right area. I will discuss this in more detail in the next blog. In the meantime, if you have any questions about EM surveying please get in touch.

Chris Smith
Operations Manager Agri Optics NZ Ltd.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

EM Values - What the data is telling you

Today we've got the second part of a 4 part series on EM Surveying and all it's uses. This week we've been into the EM Surveying over on the West Coast (check out our Facebook page if you want to see more) and it's certainly an important part of the job being out there doing the survey and seeing the physical aspects of the job to help make sense of the data and what it's telling you. Today we look at what the EM data does tell you...

An electro-magnetic (EM) sensor generates a constant electro-magnetic field that penetrates into the soil profile. It measures the bulk electrical conductivity of the soil profile. As we conduct an EM survey the sensor is taking readings at two different depths simultaneously. These two depths are known as the ‘Shallow EM’ and the ‘Deep EM’. The depths the DualEM reads depends on the height the machine is off the ground. With our EM setup we are reading the soil profile depth of 0-50cm for the shallow EM and the deep EM at a soil profile of 0-125cm. So the deep EM values are the same as the shallow plus another 75cm deeper. This is why the deep EM readings are always higher than the shallow as it is reading that extra 5cm.
Figure 1: Shallow EM survey values varying from 2-20 EM units (mS/m)

Figure 2: Deep EM of the same area with values ranging from 14-30 EM units (mS/m)
In this survey the same features are showing in the shallow EM and deep EM results, however sometimes this is not always the case the deeper profile can have a different underlying soil type that the shallow EM doesn’t pick up but the extra 85cm of deeper soil does and it changes the overall structure.

Generally speaking and depending on what part of the country you are in and the time of year the survey is carried out amongst other things, we would class a range in EM in the shallow profile of 1-3 units as low variability, 4-8 units as moderate variability and over 8 units range as high variability in the shallow layer/soil profile. In the deep EM/soil profile layer a range of 1-6 would be low variability, 6-15 moderate variability and over that high. It is often dangerous to generalise like that, but it gives you an idea of the type of ranges we look at, and as previously stated there are a lot of other factories that determine if the readings are low, medium or high variability. You also have to look at the distribution of the values as well, if the majority of the values are within a certain range and a few rogue values outside that but on a minimal area of the total, then the range in variation may not be as much as it first looks. How much the variability is costing you in terms of blanket irrigation applications compared to variable rate irrigation applications be it water, seed or fertilizer is a subject for another day!

For more information on EM Surveying please contact us at Agri Optics NZ Ltd.

Chris Smith.facebook