GIS and the Spatial Dimensions of Agricultural Nitrogen

By Vector One ⋅ February 20, 2009

Modern agricultural production is highly oriented toward cropping systems that are less biologically diverse. Recent agricultural research has found that “biodiversity in crops decreases fertilizer damage to rivers and lakes. Researchers have identified a link between the diversity of crops grown in farmlands and the pollution they create in lakes and rivers.”

Since biological diversity is often expressed through smaller fields with greater numbers of edges, the concept of quantifying agricultural diversity through aerial imaging could hold promise – simply by identifying field borders, then classifying regions.

The edges create ‘edge effects’ which have a long and large amount of published material related to spatial properties and effects created by these edges – many beneficial. These studies involve rangeland animals, native plant species, forests, water distribution and a whole host of other phenomena.

Because nitrogen is soluble, it moves readily in moist environments (which is one reason why fall applied nitrogen can be lost to the atmosphere and overland flow in spring – I spent a long time working on nitrogen research).

But this kind of research goes back to the issue of feeding an increasing population, attempting to maintain the environment while also being able to do so economically.

This is fundamentally why GIS, GPS and remote sensing are primary tools for modern agricultural production and how they can contribute to ensure management strategies that balance the triad of amount, environment and economics.


Author: EARSC

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