Precision irrigation requires the mapping of within-field variations of water requirement. Conventional remote sensing techniques provide estimates of water status at only shallow soil depths. The ability of a water sensitive crop, sugar beet, to act as an intermediate sensor providing an integrated measure of water status throughout its rooting depth is tested here. Archive aerial photographs and satellite imagery of Eastern England show crop patterns resulting from past periglacial processes. The patterns were found to be spatially and temporally consistent. Field sampling of soil cores to 1 m depth established that the within-field wilting zones were significantly associated with coarser or shallow soils. The stress classes, determined by classification of the digitised images, were weakly correlated with total available water (Pearson correlation r = 0.588, P < 0.05). These results suggest that wilting in sugar beet can be used as an intermediate sensor for quantifying potential soil water availability within the root zone. Within-field stress maps generated in 1 year could be applied as a strategic tool allowing precision irrigation to be applied to high-value crops in following years, helping to make more sustainable use of water resources.
Precision Agriculture – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 1, 2010
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