Variable-rate fertilizer application is often based on grid soil sample data from a single year of data in an annual crop rotation. The objectives of this study were to determine if crop history influences spatial dependence (the degree of spatial variability) of nutrients in a rotation including both annual crops and alfalfa, and to compare grid-based and topography-based sampling strategies for representing within-field nutrient levels. A site in the Red River Valley of North Dakota was observed over three years from 1994–1996. The site was divided into one field of continuous alfalfa (Medica sativa L.) and an adjacent field seeded to spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) in 1994, barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) in 1995 and alfalfa in 1996. Samples were taken from a 16.2-ha site each fall in a 33-m grid and analyzed for NO3-N, P, SO4-S and Cl. Topography was determined by measuring elevation in a 33-m grid with a laser-surveying device. Spatial dependence was determined by calculating the semivariogram and using regression analysis to assess the relationship between the semivariogram and the semivariogram model. Spatial dependence of NO3-N and P was strongest following spring wheat and barley, while spatial dependence for SO4-S and C1 was strongest for vigorous stands of alfalfa. When the continuous alfalfa stand declined following winter kill, NO3-N and P spatial dependence intensified. Topography based sampling was correlated with the 33-m grid by giving each 33-m sampling location its value as directed by a topography sampling, then correlating that topography based value with the original 33-m sampling value. Topography-based sampling was correlated with the 33-m sampling grid for all nutrients following spring wheat and barley, but not in continuous alfalfa until the stand began to decline in vigor. Following alfalfa seeding in the annual crop field, topography relationships with NO3-N and P decreased, while topography relationships with SO4-S and Cl increased. Topography samplings of sulfate-S and chloride were most highly correlated to 33-m grid values in vigorous alfalfa. Lack of NO3-N spatial dependence in the vigorous alfalfa stands suggests that a composite or field average soil test might be sufficient to provide soil NO3-N information under similar conditions.
Precision Agriculture – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 6, 2004
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