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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Precision Farming Effects on Corn Productivity and Water Quality

Authors
item Torbert, Henry
item Searcy, S - TEXAS A&M
item Kenimer, A - TEXAS A&M
item Roades, J - TEXAS A&M

Submitted to: Intnl Conference On Geospatial Information In Agriculture And Forestry
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 10, 2000
Publication Date: January 10, 2000
Citation: Torbert, H.A., Searcy, S.W., Kenimer, A.L., Roades, J. Precision farming effects on corn productivity and water quality. Proceedings of the Second International Conference Geospatial Information in Agriculture and Forestry. 2000. v. II. p. 495-502.

Interpretive Summary: Application of fertilizers in production agriculture is essential to maintain productivity and sustainability of farmers. However, over application of fertilizers not only reduces the profitability of the farmers but potentially degrades water quality. Developing techniques for precision farming that are adoptable to heavy clay soil in Central Texas could contribute to the sustainability of farmers in the region. A project was implemented on a site in Bell County, TX where one field was managed based on present conventional farming practices, and precision farming concepts were implemented on an adjacent field. The precision farming systems used a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to monitor crop yields and to locate soil boundaries, established from soil sampling for plant nutrients. Water quality was monitored by taking water samples from runoff at the edge of the field. Results indicated that water quality was improved when best management practices were used and that precision farming techniques could potentially contribute to the sustainability of farmers in the region.

Technical Abstract: Application of fertilizers in production agriculture is essential to maintain productivity and sustainability of farmers. However, over application of fertilizers may reduce farmer profitability and potentially degrade water resources. A project was implemented on a site in Bell County, TX where one field was managed based on present conventional farming practices, and precision farming concepts were implemented on an adjacent field. A global positioning system receiver was used to monitor crop yields and to locate soil boundaries, established from soil sampling on a 1 ha grid. Soil samples were analyzed for total N, total P, and organic C. The site was divided into homogeneous management units, and fertilizer N applications were made based on site specific yield goals. Surface water measuring flumes and automatic samplers were installed at the natural discharge points from the fields. Water samples were collected for all runoff events and were analyzed for nitrate, ammonia, and soluble P. The impact of the altering fertilizer applications within each management unit was evaluated with the use of small plots. Grain yields ranged from 8.3 to 10.4 Mg/ha, with the best yield measured in the highest fertilizer N rate in the best management unit area. Higher nutrient losses in runoff were measured from the conventional managed area compared to the precision managed area for nitrate, ammonia, and soluble P. Yield measurements were correlated to only the previous years yield measurements, indicating that yield variability was repeatable, but not predictable by soil parameters measured in this study.

Last Modified: 12/27/2014
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