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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #353666

Research Project: Development of Sugar Beet Germplasm Enhanced for Resistance to Important and Emerging Plant Pathogens

Location: Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research

Title: Precision conservation and precision regulation

item SASSENRATH, GRETCHEN - Arkansas State University
item Delgado, Jorge

Submitted to: Precision Conservation: Geospatial Techniques for Agricultural and Natural Resources Conservation
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/10/2018
Publication Date: 11/3/2018
Citation: Sassenrath, G.F., Delgado, J.A. 2018. Precision conservation and precision regulation. In: Delgado, J.A., Sasenrath, G.F., Mueller, T., editors. Precision Conservation: Geospatial Techniques for Agricultural and Natural Resources Conservation. Madison, WI: American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America, Inc. p. 361-384.

Interpretive Summary: Precision agriculture with precision conservation can contribute to better decision-making processes to increase the efficiency of inputs, and increase yields and economic returns while minimizing the losses of soil, water, and agrochemicals; conserving air, soil and water quality in the field and across the watershed; and enhancing wildlife habitat. There is potential to use GPS, GIS, remote sensing, modeling, robotics, drones, artificial intelligence, and software applications for a new, smart approach to soil and water conservation (smart soil and water conservation). We could use these advanced technologies to increase the efficiency of conservation practices and increase the conservation return per dollar applied. Additionally, the reductions in nutrient, soil, sediment, and other losses could potentially be traded in air and water quality markets. USDA has voluntary conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which helps producers invest in improved practices for soil, air, and water conservation for their agricultural operations (USDA-NRCS 2018). Additionally, there are private companies that are also supporting voluntary regulation and are encouraging the use of a precision conservation approach to revolutionize soil and water management (Buman 2016a; Buman 2016b; Hammes, 2016.). Using this precision conservation approach, the private industry could help implement variable buffers, denitrification traps, and other new technologies that could be used to manage the flows. Precision conservation is starting to be used as one of the tools and approaches of voluntary precision regulation to target hot spots across the watershed that are contributing to higher nutrient, soil, and/or sediment losses. Precision conservation has been defined as “the integration of spatial technologies such as global positioning systems (GPS), remote sensing (RS) and geographic information systems (GIS) and the ability to analyze spatial relationships modeling, data mining and map analysis” (Berry et al. 2003). However, low tech approaches have also been used to apply precision conservation agri¬culture across the Sub-Saharan region of Africa (FAO 2009; Silici 2010; Thiombiano and Meshack 2009; Jenrich 2011). This book covers the advantages of applying a precision conservation approach for increasing yields, economic returns, and nutrient use efficiencies at a field level, and reducing the losses and transport of nutrients at the field edge, from the farm gate, and across the watershed. Examples are presented that show that a voluntary precision regulation approach can be used to encourage farmers, nutrient managers, conservationists, wildlife biologists, consultants, non-governmental organizations, and other users of these new technologies to apply conservation practices across the watershed to achieve reductions in nutrient losses, GHG emissions, and erosion, while increasing carbon sequestration and other ecosystem benefits that could potentially be traded in voluntary air and water quality markets. This book shows that there is potential to use these precision conservation tools to assess the benefits of conservation practices that account for spatial and temporary variability to increase conservation effectiveness and increase the potential to trade reductions in nitrogen losses (by converting the reductions in nitrogen fluxes that contribute to lower direct and indirect N2O emissions to reductions in CO2 equivalent emissions), as well as reductions in GHG emissions and agrochemicals and increases in soil organic matter sequestration, in environmental quality markets. Better designed practices could contribute to increased conservation effectiveness, protecting streams and reducing off-site transport of sediments and agrochemicals from fields. Precision conservation can be used to assess the flo

Technical Abstract: With the challenges that humanity is confronting during the 21st century such as a growing global population, a changing climate, extreme weather events, greater demands for water resources, depletion of aquifers, desertification, and other environmental challenges, conservation of soil resources will be critical for humanity’s food security. It takes hundreds to thousands of years to form as little as 2.5 cm of soil, and this layer could be lost via erosion in an extreme event. Conservation of soil resources across all continents in the coming decades will be critical to adapt to a changing climate for food security. The data presented in this book shows that precision conservation is a key approach to increasing the effectiveness of conservation practices to conserve and/or improve air, soil and water quality and increase the potential for adaptation to a changing climate. Taking the business-as-usual approach will not be enough to reduce the nutrient losses or erosion from agricultural systems; for example, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (USGAO 2013) reported that over four decades after the Clean Water Act was established, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found in its assessment of national water quality that greater than fifty percent of the assessed waters were not meeting water quality standards. Human activities continue to contribute to GHG emissions and soil degradation. Soil and water conservation will be an important component of efforts to increase food security during the 21st century, and the precision conservation approaches presented in this book show how to increase conservation effectiveness to increase sustainability, reduce nutrient losses, reduce fluxes from agricultural systems, and increase soil and water conservation at a watershed level for agricultural and non-agricultural areas. Precision conservation can be used to identify the hot spots across a field and across a watershed and we could target the use of conservation practices to significantly reduce the losses of nutrients, agrochemicals and soils. There is potential to use these approaches to increase voluntary application of precision conservation and to trade these reductions in agrochemicals and erosion losses in air and water quality trading markets, increasing economic benefits for farmers. Precision conservation could also increase the impact of each dollar applied in conservation practices, and even help to increase the efficiency of the applied inputs, maintain and increase yields, increase economic returns, and contribute to increased wildlife biodiversity, all of which could increase the potential for voluntary use of this approach.