The Impact of Soil Sampling Errors on Variable Rate Fertilization

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Variable rate fertilization of an agricultural field is done taking into account spatial variability in the soil’s characteristics. Most often, spatial variability in the soil’s fertility is the primary characteristic used to determine the differences in fertilizers applied from one point to the next. For several years the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) has been developing a Decision Support System for Agriculture (DSS4Ag) to determine the economically optimum recipe of various fertilizers to apply at each site in a field, based on existing soil fertility at the site, predicted yield of the crop that would result (and a ... continued below

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Hoskinson, R. L.; Rope, R C.; Blackwood, L G.; Lee, R D. & Fink, R K. July 1, 2004.

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Variable rate fertilization of an agricultural field is done taking into account spatial variability in the soil’s characteristics. Most often, spatial variability in the soil’s fertility is the primary characteristic used to determine the differences in fertilizers applied from one point to the next. For several years the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) has been developing a Decision Support System for Agriculture (DSS4Ag) to determine the economically optimum recipe of various fertilizers to apply at each site in a field, based on existing soil fertility at the site, predicted yield of the crop that would result (and a predicted harvest-time market price), and the current costs and compositions of the fertilizers to be applied. Typically, soil is sampled at selected points within a field, the soil samples are analyzed in a lab, and the lab-measured soil fertility of the point samples is used for spatial interpolation, in some statistical manner, to determine the soil fertility at all other points in the field. Then a decision tool determines the fertilizers to apply at each point. Our research was conducted to measure the impact on the variable rate fertilization recipe caused by variability in the measurement of the soil’s fertility at the sampling points. The variability could be laboratory analytical errors or errors from variation in the sample collection method. The results show that for many of the fertility parameters, laboratory measurement error variance exceeds the estimated variability of the fertility measure across grid locations. These errors resulted in DSS4Ag fertilizer recipe recommended application rates that differed by up to 138 pounds of urea per acre, with half the field differing by more than 57 pounds of urea per acre. For potash the difference in application rate was up to 895 pounds per acre and over half the field differed by more than 242 pounds of potash per acre. Urea and potash differences accounted for almost 87% of the cost difference. The sum of these differences could result in a $34 per acre cost difference for the fertilization. Because of these differences, better analysis or better sampling methods may need to be done, or more samples collected, to ensure that the soil measurements are truly representative of the field’s spatial variability.

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  • International Precision Agriculture Conference,Minneapolis, Minnesota,07/25/2004,07/28/2004

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  • Report No.: INEEL/CON-04-02144
  • Grant Number: DE-AC07-99ID-13727
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 910814
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc878413

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Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • July 1, 2004

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Dec. 15, 2016, 3:10 p.m.

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Hoskinson, R. L.; Rope, R C.; Blackwood, L G.; Lee, R D. & Fink, R K. The Impact of Soil Sampling Errors on Variable Rate Fertilization, article, July 1, 2004; [Idaho Falls, Idaho]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc878413/: accessed April 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.