Alberta Barley

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Understanding soil variability for effective zone management in precision agriculture—an evaluation of sensor-based soil mapping tools

Project leads:
Ken Coles
Manager
Farming Smarter

Dr. Muhammad Akbar
Research Scientist
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

Timeline: April 2012 – Dececmber 2015

Partners:

  • Alberta Barley
  • Alberta Canola Producers Commission

Alberta Barley funding: $10,000
Total funding from other partners: $165,000

Summary:
The project aims to evaluate the EM38 and VERIS soil mapping tools, management zone delineation techniques and agronomy options. It will provide scientific data regarding precision agriculture tools and simple protocols for farmers considering adopting this technology.

Recent updates:
This study compared the performance of two soil EC sensors, EM38-MK2 (EM38) and Veris MSP3 (Veris). We assessed soil EC mapping as a low cost alternative to grid soil sampling for estimating in-field soil variability. Additionally, we assessed the capacity of soil sensors as well as other layers of mapped data to create zones for variable rate management applications. The study showed that EM38 and Veris performance is accurate and consistent over both time and space. Soil EC maps from both sensors were found to be strong indicators of the presence of clay and soil moisture. However, the study revealed that mapped EC data could not be used for a direct estimation of the spatial distribution of plant macro-nutrients (NPKS).

Benefits for farmers:
As a result of this research, farmers will know what is worth their time and money, whether they are working with an agronomist or attempting precision agriculture on their own.