Delineating site-specific management zones and evaluating soil water temporal dynamics in a farmer’s field in Kentucky

Javier Reyes, Ole Wendroth, Christopher Matocha, Junfeng Zhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Due to spatial variability of soil genesis, topography, and resulting soil properties in farmers’ fields, soil and crop processes vary in space and time. Therefore, optimum rates and timing of resource applications, such as nutrients and irrigation water, may vary as well. It remains a challenge to quantify the spatial variability of a field and to identify effective ways to manage fields in a site-specific manner. The objective of this study was to delineate management zones within a farmer’s field based on relatively easily obtainable information that is statistically integrated. Moreover, soil water temporal dynamics should be evaluated regarding their spatial differences in different zones. The set of direct and indirect observations included clay and silt content, apparent electrical conductivity, soil chemical properties (pH; organic matter; and total N, P, K, Ca, Mg, and Zn), satellite-based normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), and lidar-based topographic variables in a western Kentucky field. Several key variables and their capability to describe spatial crop yield variability were identified by using principal component analysis: soil clay content, slope, soil organic matter content, topographic wetness index, and NDVI. Two types of cluster analysis were applied to delineate management zones. The cluster analyses revealed that two to three zones was the optimal number of classes based on different criteria. Delineated zones were evaluated and revealed significant differences in corn (Zea mays L.) yield and temporally different soil moisture dynamics. The results demonstrate the ability of the proposed procedure to delineate a farmer’s field into zones based on spatially varying soil and crop properties that should be considered for irrigation management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number180143
JournalVadose Zone Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Kentucky Small Grain Growers’ Association; the Kentucky Corn Growers’ Association; the Kentucky Soybean Board; the Southern Soybean Research Program; the SFB 271 Water Quality Program through the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and the Department of Plant & Soil Sciences; and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Multistate Project KY006093). We thank Riley Jason Walton and James Dol-larhide for technical support, Xi Zhang for support during the field experiments, and Trevor Gilkey (Hillview Farms, Princeton, KY) for allowing this research to be conducted on his farm. This is Publication no. 18-06-088 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station, which is published with the approval of the Director.

Publisher Copyright:
© Soil Science Society of America.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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