Management Zones to Help in Precision Ag
August 14, 2003
Most farmers would love to increase
their yields while decreasing the money spent on chemicals. New studies in
precision agriculture by the Agricultural
Research Service could help farmers achieve this goal.
ARS scientists in Columbia, Mo., are studying how "management
zones" can help farmers who want to use precision agriculture. By creating
these zones within a field, farmers can target where pesticides and
fertilizers, for example, need to be applied, instead of applying chemicals
uniformly across the field. In this way, farmers may be able to save money and
help the environment.
Led by soil scientist Newell R. Kitchen of the ARS
Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research Unit, scientists are
using computers to create management zones. Computers fed the latest
mapped soil and crop information can mathematically find the "most
alike" areas of the field. The computer can then take into consideration
thousands of the numbers, find those that are alike and "cluster"
them together. The final result is a map of the field showing unique
management zones created from the clusters.
There can be numerous management zones for a given field, depending on what
variables the farmer wants to view. For example, a map of a field focusing on
nitrogen will probably look different than a map focusing on rectifying high
Kitchen's research group has developed a software program called
"Management Zone Analyst," or MZA, that helps cluster precision
agriculture information for creating management zones. To learn more and to
download this free program, go to:
More information about this research can be found in the
August issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.