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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Apparent Soil Electrical Conductivity Measurements in Agriculture

Authors
item Corwin, Dennis
item Lesch, Scott - UC RIVERSIDE, CA

Submitted to: Computers and Electronics in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 1, 2005
Publication Date: March 1, 2005
Citation: Corwin, D.L., Lesch, S.M. 2005. Apparent soil electrical conductivity measurements in agriculture. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture. 46:11-43.

Interpretive Summary: Site-specific crop management, commonly referred to as precision agriculture, depends on the ability to characterize the spatial variability of soil physical and chemical properties that influence crop yield and result in within field variation in yield that is less than maximum. The measurement of apparent soil electrical conductivity (ECa)with non-invasive electromagnetic induction or with invasive electrical resistivity techniques is an excellent means of characterizing soil spatial variability. Information is presented in this paper that provides the reader with (i) an understanding of the basic theories and principles of the ECa measurement, (ii) an overview of various ECa measurement techniques, (iii) applications of ECa measurements in agriculture, particularly precision agriculture, (iv) guidelines for conducting an ECa survey, and (v) current trends and future developments in the application of ECa to precision agriculture. Unquestionably, ECa is an invaluable agriculture tool that provides spatial information for soil quality assessment and precision agriculture applications including the delineation of site specific management units. Technologies such as geo-referenced ECa measurement techniques have brought precision agriculture from a 1980's concept to a promising tool for achieving sustainable agriculture.

Technical Abstract: The field-scale application of apparent soil electrical conductivity (ECa) to agriculture has its origin in the measurement of soil salinity, which is an arid-zone problem associated with irrigated agricultural land and with areas having shallow water tables. Apparent soil electrical conductivity is influenced by a combination of physico-chemical properties including soluble salts, clay content and mineralogy, soil water content, bulk density, organic matter, and soil temperature; consequently, measurements of ECa have been used at field scales to map the spatial variation of several edaphic properties: soil salinity, clay content or depth to clay-rich layers, soil water content, the depth of flood deposited sands, and organic matter. In addition, ECa has been used at field scales to determine a variety of anthropogenic properties: leaching fraction, irrigation and drainage patterns, and compaction patterns due to farm machinery. Since its early agricultural use as a means of measuring soil salinity, the agricultural application of ECa has evolved into a widely accepted means of establishing the spatial variability of several soil physico-chemical properties that influence the ECa measurement. Apparent soil electrical conductivity is a quick, reliable, easy-to-take soil measurement that often, but not always, relates to crop yield. For these reasons, the measurement of ECa is among the most frequently used tools in precision agriculture research for the spatio-temporal characterization of edaphic and anthropogenic properties that influence crop yield. It is the objective of this paper to provide a review of the development and use of ECa measurements for agricultural purposes, particularly from a perspective of precision agriculture applications. Background information is presented to provide the reader with (i) an understanding of the basic theories and principles of the ECa measurement, (ii) an overview of various ECa measurement techniques, (iii) applications of ECa measurements in agriculture, particularly precision agriculture, (iv) guidelines for conducting an ECa survey, and (v) current trends and future developments in the application of ECa to precision agriculture. Unquestionably, ECa is an invaluable agriculture tool that provides spatial information for soil quality assessment and precision agriculture applications including the delineation of site specific management units. Technologies such as geo-referenced ECa measurement techniques have brought precision agriculture from a 1980's concept to a promising tool for achieving sustainable agriculture.

Last Modified: 10/21/2014
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