Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #334535

Research Project: Sustainable Intensification of Grain and Biomass Cropping Systems using a Landscape-Based GxExM Approach

Location: Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research

Title: Field variability and vulnerability index to identify regional precision agriculture opportunity

Author
item Bobryk, Christopher
item Yost, Matt
item Kitchen, Newell

Submitted to: Precision Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/13/2017
Publication Date: 8/1/2018
Citation: Bobryk, C.W., Yost, M.A., Kitchen, N.R. 2018. Field variability and vulnerability index to identify regional precision agriculture opportunity. Precision Agriculture. 19:589-605. doi:10.1007/s11119-017-9541-6.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11119-017-9541-6

Interpretive Summary: One of the greatest benefits of precision agriculture (PA) has been the tools and procedures to accurately quantify soil and crop variability within fields. However, prior to investing in PA, it would be advantageous for producers and their service/supply providers to have a “first glance” for what fields may have the greatest variability. Such a product would provide direction for where opportunity exists to optimize agricultural inputs with PA. The objectives of this research were to generate state maps for Missouri that displayed: 1) a within-field soil clay-content variability index (VIc), 2) growing-season precipitation variability index (VIp), and 3) an integrated VIc and VIp index that was also merged with the USDA NRCS soil erosion vulnerability index (SVI). This final index map incorporated both production variability and erosion vulnerability (VVI). All indices were derived using publically available information for Missouri. A total of 175,073 crop production fields were included. Significant groups of fields with high VIc were observed in the Mississippi Delta region in the southeast corner of the state, and along the Missouri and Mississippi River corridors. Fields with the highest VIp were mostly found in the north-central and northeast parts of the state. The Mississippi Delta region of southeast Missouri displayed some of the greatest diversity in soil and weather variability, but also had low vulnerability. Fields with high VVI were mostly in the claypan soil region of northeast Missouri, and along a portion of the Missouri River dominated by loess soils on steep slopes. This study provided one of the first examples of an approach that produced a quantitative map over a whole state of cropped fields that displayed both potential production variability and vulnerability. Even though implementing PA remains heavily situational and dependent on the specific variation present within a field, this research can help producers and their providers get a general idea where fields and regions have the greatest potential for optimizing agricultural inputs using PA technologies.

Technical Abstract: Innovations in precision agriculture (PA) have created opportunities to achieve a greater understanding of within-field variability. However, PA adoption has been hindered due to uncertainty about field-specific performance and return on investment. Uncertainty could be better addressed by analyzing variability among fields and across a region. The objectives of this research were to: 1) generate a within-field soil clay-content variability index (VIc), 2) create a regional-scale growing-season precipitation variability index (VIp), and 3) integrate the soil and weather indices with the USDA NRCS soil erosion vulnerability index (SVI) to produce a final index that incorporated both variability and vulnerability (VVI). The interpretation of the outcomes represented by each objective supports unique decisions that producers and service/product providers may consider for reducing uncertainty. All indices were derived using publically available information for Missouri, USA. A total of 175,073 crop production fields were included. The VIc was the ratio between the maximum and minimum clay content within fields. The VIp was calculated as the standard deviation of the total growing-season precipitation from 2006 to 2015. Significant clustering of VIc and VIp were observed along the Missouri River corridor, northeast, and northwest Missouri. Fields with high VVI were mostly in the claypan soil region of northeast Missouri, and along a portion of the Missouri River dominated by loess soils on steep slopes. Southeast Missouri displayed the greatest diversity in soil and weather variability, but had low vulnerability. This research could be used as a decision-support tool to aide producers and supporting agricultural industry for determining where PA opportunities exist.