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MS Thesis Defense - Sophia Becker

Feasibility assessment on use of proximal geophysical sensors to support precision management

Date: Time: 10:00 am–11:00 am
Hardin Hall Room: 901 South
Additional Info: HARH
Contact: Trenton Franz,
To keep up with the global food demand, modern agriculture seeks to optimize production on current agricultural land. One method of optimization is through precision management, where field zones are managed according to variation in soil properties. For instance, activities such as irrigation, fertilization, and seeding can be guided by soil maps of available water capacity, organic matter content, and bulk density. The conventional method for obtaining soil maps is extensive soil sampling, which involves significant time and labor costs. On-the-go geophysical sensors can potentially obtain soil maps that are still accurate enough for precision management but less costly. Physical properties of the earth, such as the electrical conductivity and naturally emitted radiation of the top meter of the ground, can be correlated with various soil properties. Geophysical sensors can provide information about the variability of the soil between soil sample locations and reduce the number of soil samples needed. However, across different field conditions, the geophysical data tends to have varying correlations with the actual soil properties.
A study was conducted in three agricultural fields in North Dakota to better understand geophysical sensors’ performances in soil mapping. Electrical conductivity data from an electromagnetic-induction sensor, radioelement concentrations from a gamma-ray sensor, and neutron intensities from a cosmic-ray neutron sensor were used to build simple linear models that predict soil properties across each field. At each of the sites, different soil properties such as bulk density, texture, or available water content were predicted with satisfactory accuracy. The study shows that using just a few soil samples alongside geophysical data is a feasible method for creating soil maps for precision management. While electromagnetic induction and gamma-ray surveys are currently commercially available to producers, future work must be done to establish which sensors are best for each setting and the method’s economic value.

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This event originated in School of Natural Resources.