Long-term impact of a precision agriculture system on grain crop production
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Research is lacking on the long-term impacts of field-scale precision agriculture practices on grain production. Following more than a decade (1993–2003) of yield and soil mapping and water quality assessment, a multi-faceted, ‘precision agriculture system’ (PAS) was implemented from 2004 to 2014 on a 36-ha field in central Missouri. The PAS targeted management practices that address crop production and environmental issues. It included no-till, cover crops, growing winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) instead of corn (Zea mays L.) for field areas where corn was not profitable, site-specific N for wheat and corn using canopy reflectance sensing, variable-rate P, K and lime using intensively grid-sampled data, and targeting of herbicides based on weed pressure. The PAS assessment was accomplished by comparing it to the previous decade of conventional, whole-field corn-soybean (Glycine max L.) mulch-tillage management. In the northern part of the field and compared to pre-PAS corn, relative grain yield of wheat in PAS was greatly improved and temporal yield variation was reduced on shallow topsoil, but relative grain yield was reduced on deep soil in the drainage channel. In the southern part of the field where corn remained in production, PAS did not lead to increased yield, but temporal yield variation was reduced. Across the whole field, soybean yield and temporal yield variation were only marginally influenced by PAS. Spatial yield variation of all three crops was not altered by PAS. Therefore, the greatest production advantage of a decade of precision agriculture was reduced temporal yield variation, which leads to greater yield stability and resilience to changing climate.
KeywordsPrecision conservation Precision nutrient management Integrated precision practices Crop production No-till Cover crops
The authors sincerely thank Don and Vicki Collins, Matt Volkmann, Kurt Holiman, Michael Krumpelman, Bill Wilson, Larry Mueller, Kevin Austin, and numerous other personnel for assisting in the maintenance and management of the field used in this study. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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