Optimizing Nitrogen Management in Food and Energy Production and Environmental Protection: 2nd International Nitrogen Conference 2001View this Special Issue
Applying Nitrogen Site-Specifically Using Soil Electrical Conductivity Maps and Precision Agriculture Technology
Soil texture varies significantly within many agricultural fields. The physical properties of soil, such as soil texture, have a direct effect on water holding capacity, cation exchange capacity, crop yield, production capability, and nitrogen (N) loss variations within a field. In short, mobile nutrients are used, lost, and stored differently as soil textures vary. A uniform application of N to varying soils results in a wide range of N availability to the crop. N applied in excess of crop usage results in a waste of the grower’s input expense, a potential negative effect on the environment, and in some crops a reduction of crop quality, yield, and harvestability. Inadequate N levels represent a lost opportunity for crop yield and profit. The global positioning system (GPS)-referenced mapping of bulk soil electrical conductivity (EC) has been shown to serve as an effective proxy for soil texture and other soil properties. Soils with a high clay content conduct more electricity than coarser textured soils, which results in higher EC values. This paper will describe the EC mapping process and provide case studies of site-specific N applications based on EC maps. Results of these case studies suggest that N can be managed site-specifically using a variety of management practices, including soil sampling, variable yield goals, and cropping history.