GPS helps locate soil erosion pathways

Aug 13, 2009

Grassed waterways are placed in agricultural fields where runoff water tends to concentrate because they can substantially reduce soil erosion. Mapping techniques that help identify where erosion channels will likely form could help farmers and conservation professionals do a better job of designing and locating grassed waterways in agricultural fields.

Tom Mueller, associate professor in the University of Kentucky (UK), College of Agriculture, guided Adam Pike, UK graduate student, on a project that examined whether reliable prediction models could be created to identify eroded waterways from digital terrain information such as landscape curvature and estimates of water flow from upslope areas.

"The terrain attributes were calculated from elevation data obtained with survey-grade GPS measurements collected on a farm in the Outer Bluegrass Region of Kentucky," Mueller explains.

Results from the study are published in the September-October issue of . This work supported by a special grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The authors developed equations that accurately identified the potential locations of erosion-prone areas. They found that simple regression methods could be used to fit these equations as well as more complex non-linear neural-network procedures. The equations were used to map areas in fields where erosion was predicted. These areas corresponded very well with actual field observations of erosion. This work was confirmed with a leave-one-field-out validation procedure.

Research showed these maps could help conservation planners and farmers identify where erosion from concentrated flow is likely to occur, but not necessarily the exact shapes of these features. Field site-assessments would still likely be required for verification and to accurately delineate the boundaries of erosion-prone areas.

Mueller stated, "while this study is promising, more work is needed to determine whether these techniques can also be used with USGS digital elevation grids and from elevation data obtained with light detecting and ranging (LIDAR) data. Further, we need to evaluate whether models can be developed to predict across larger geographic areas."

Mueller is conducting follow-up research to evaluate quality of erosion predictions created with 10-m USGS data sets and evaluating the performance of these models on fields in western Kentucky. He hopes to present the results of some of this work at the 2009 Annual American Society of Agronomy Meetings.

More information: The full article is available for no charge for 30 days following the date of this summary. View the abstract at agron.scijournals.org/cgi/cont… /abstract/101/5/1068 .

Source: American Society of Agronomy

Explore further: New York state bans fracking

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Smithsonian study: Sediment prediction tools off the mark

Jan 29, 2008

A recent study led by Smithsonian ecologist Kathy Boomer suggests it is time for a change in at least one area of watershed management. Boomer has been examining the tools scientists and managers use to predict how much sediment ...

Preventing soil erosion in continuous corn

Jan 12, 2009

With recent increase in the cost of energy and subsequent explorations into alternative energy sources, the increased harvest of corn residue for cellulosic ethanol production is likely in the future. This may be especially ...

Crop models help increase yield per unit of water used

May 04, 2009

Crop water use efficiency (WUE, or yield per unit of water used), also known as crop water productivity, can be improved through irrigation management and methods, including deficit irrigation (irrigating less than is required ...

Crop management: How small do we go?

Jul 08, 2008

The use of on-the-go crop and soil sensors has greatly increased the precision with which farmers can manage their crops. Recently released research in Agronomy Journal questions whether more precise management is necess ...

Agricultural soil erosion is not adding to global warming

Oct 26, 2007

Agricultural soil erosion is not a source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, according to research published online today (October 25) in the journal Science. The study was carried out by an international team of resear ...

Satellites help map soil carbon flux

Mar 25, 2008

Changes in soil carbon occur with changes in land management. Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and The University of Tennessee investigated quantifying soil carbon changes over large regions.

Recommended for you

New York state bans fracking

8 hours ago

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday he would ban hydraulic fracking in New York State, citing health concerns about the controversial oil and gas drilling technique.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.