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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 #353667

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: Geospatial Techniques for Agricultural and Natural Resources

item Delgado, Jorge
item SASSENRATH, GRETCHEN - Kansas State University
item MUELLER, THOMAS - John Deere & Company

Submitted to: Crop Science Society of America Monograph
Publication Type: Monograph
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/10/2018
Publication Date: 11/3/2018
Citation: Delgado, J.A., Sassenrath, G.F., Mueller, T. 2018. Precision Conservation: Geospatial Techniques for Agricultural and Natural Resources. Crop Science Society of America Monograph, 384 p.

Interpretive Summary: It has been reported that agricultural operations are impacting the quality of our air, soil and water, and the health of our soils. Intensification of agricultural systems is contributing to increased fluxes out of soil systems, which is contributing to higher losses of sediments, nutrients and soil organic matter, especially if soil and water conservation practices are not implemented. There have been reports suggesting that a changing climate and the occurrence of more frequent extreme events will contribute to the acceleration of soil degradation and to off-site transport of sediment and nutrients from agricultural systems. Precision farming and precision conservation can contribute to the implementation of the best management possible at a given agricultural site and use new technologies such as GPS, GIS, remote sensing and modeling to assess the fluxes of the field to the surrounding natural areas to start implementing precise conservation agriculture that can take into account temporal and spatial variability for improved protection of air, soil and water quality. This book presents information about the concept of precision conservation and how this concept could be applied at a field level and across the watershed to reduce the losses of nutrients from the field and watershed and reduce the soil erosion and offsite transport of agrochemicals. Throughout this book the authors describe how we can use precision conservation to be more efficient in the use of inputs and avoid over-application and overlap when applying agrochemicals to reduce the potential for losses, and for applying these agrochemicals to sensitive areas where conservation practices are being implemented. The authors present examples on how to use conservation practices such as terraces, grass waterways, buffers, contour furrows and other types of conservation practices to be more efficient in the building and installation of these practices, and improve drainage systems and irrigation systems. Precision conservation tools allow accurate development of conservation structures to optimize the sediment and nutrient control from fields and into waterways, and to better apply specific conservation practices such as grass waterways, buffers, sediment traps, denitrification traps, and other conservation practices that contribute to reduced losses of soils and nutrients from the field and watershed. An example is improving the design and placement of terraces or drainage systems using GIS and GPS technologies such as high-resolution digital elevation maps from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) or real-time kinematic (RTK) GPS equipment. Precision conservation tools can allow us to precisely design vegetative filter strips and riparian buffers that will do a better job intercepting flows of water and nutrients. Precision conservation uses models, GPS, and GIS to connect flows from the field and across the watershed to enable better decision-making regarding the application of conservation practices at the field, at the edge of the field, and across the watershed. Precision conservation could also help minimize nutrient losses, savings which could then be traded in erosion, in air and water quality markets. Precision conservation can help with the implementation of voluntary precision regulation programs that contribute to increased effectiveness of conservation practices and soil and water conservation efforts, as well as higher yields, economic returns, sustainability, and potential to adapt to a changing climate.

Technical Abstract: Healthy soils are the foundation of sustainable agricultural systems, which are essential for both the food and economic security of modern societies. Agricultural production operations could potentially reduce soil productivity and negatively impact the environment if soil and water conservation practices are not implemented. Since we will have to increase agricultural production per unit area in order to feed a population that is projected to reach 9.5 billion people by 2050, it will be critical that as we increase agricultural intensification of soil systems, we also increase and improve the implementation of soil and water conservation practices, especially in the face of a changing climate with extreme weather events, which are projected to occur more frequently in the coming years. Precision conservation using new technologies such as GPS, GIS, remote sensing and modeling can help us apply the right conservation practice(s). This approach could not only help us apply the right conservation practices across the watershed but could help us identify the most sensitive areas across the landscape, and could contribute to the implementation of sound conservation practices that consider spatial and temporal variability of weather, soil type, vegetation and other factors to minimize the loss of soils and agrochemicals and the environmental impact from these hot spot areas. Precision conservation uses new technologies such as GPS, sensing systems and modeling to detect and record spatial patterns, and assess how to manage this variability. These technologies can be used in the field and outside of the field area across the watershed in buffer and riparian buffer areas. Precision conservation can help increase the efficiency of inputs, as well as help connect the flows across the field, to the edge of the field, and to natural areas, which can help in the identification of the best locations to place buffers and grass waterways, and in determining how to better design conservation practices (e.g., building terraces) to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of conservation efforts. Precision conservation could contribute to monetary savings when implementing these conservation practices and to increased efficiency of inputs to the system by minimizing the overlap of inputs and increasing yields via better irrigation and drainage systems. Precision conservation can potentially help preserve wildlife and help identify the ecosystem services resulting from a given conservation practice or set of practices (e.g., reductions in losses of agrochemicals) and how they can potentially be traded in air and water quality trading markets. In this book, several chapters describe how these new technologies have allowed for precise control of management inputs, improving accuracy and productivity in agriculture and conservation, and increasing crop yields. Also included in this book are several examples of how these approaches can be used to reduce erosion potential and offsite transport of agrochemicals across the watershed. Throughout this book, the authors present how these precision conservation systems are allowing users to improve profitability and increasing the information available to decision makers to help them apply the right conservation practice(s) at the right place.