Submitted to: Agricultural & Environmental Letters
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/18/2022
Publication Date: 5/26/2022
Citation: Adhikari, K., Smith, D.R., Hajda, C.B., Owens, P.R. 2022. Can soil health explain grain quality? A case study of a corn field in Texas. Agricultural & Environmental Letters. 7. Article e20078. https://doi.org/10.1002/ael2.20078.
Interpretive Summary: Soil health and crop yield are related but the relationship between soil health and grain quality is mostly unknown. We investigated the relationship between soil health index based on Haney Soil Health Tool and corn protein and oil content from a field in Texas. Results showed that there was a positive relationship of soil health with protein and oil content, and the former can be fairly estimated with soil health index. We also mapped the field-scale variations of protein and oil content, and we believe that the maps can be useful in precision agriculture applications.
Technical Abstract: Studies show a strong relationship between soil health and crop yield but those relating soil health and grain quality are limited. Furthermore, mapping of grain quality using topography, and apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) data is lacking. We investigated the relationship between soil health and corn protein and oil content, and mapped their variability using random forest model. Protein and oil content data were collected on-the-go with a CropScan monitor, ECa with a DualEM sensor, topographic data from a digital elevation model, and soil health value according to the Haney Soil Health Tool. Results showed that there was a positive relationship of soil health with protein and oil content, and the former can be fairly estimated with soil health value. We believe that the protein and oil content maps can be useful in different precision agriculture applications. We recommend using ECa and topographic data to map grain quality, and test its relationship with soil health in different soil and agronomic conditions for wider applications.