Tools for optimizing management of spatially-variable fields

H.W.G. Booltink, B.J. Van Alphen, W.D. Batchelor, J.O. Paz, J.J. Stoorvogel, R. Vargas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Efficient use of agro-chemicals is beneficial for farmers as well as for the environment. Spatial and temporal optimization of farm management will increase productivity or reduce the amount of agro-chemicals. This type of management is referred to as Precision Agriculture. Traditional management implicitly considers any field to be a homogeneous unit for management: fertilization, tillage and crop protection measures, for example, are not varied within a single field. The question for management is what to do when. Because of the variability within the field, this implies inefficient use of resources. Precision agriculture defines different management practices to be applied within single, variable fields, potentially reducing costs and limiting adverse environmental side effects. The question is not only what and when but also where. Many tools for management and analysis of spatial variable fields have been developed. In this paper, tools for managing spatial variability are demonstrated in combination with tools to optimize management in environmental and economic terms. The tools are illustrated on five case studies ranging from (1) a low technology approach using participatory mapping to derive fertilizer recommendations for resource-poor farmers in Embu, Kenya, (2) an example of backward modelling to analyze fertilizer applications and restrict nitrogen losses to the groundwater in the Wieringermeer in The Netherlands, (3) a low-tech approach of precision agriculture, developed for a banana plantation in Costa Rica to achieve higher input use efficiency and insight in spatial and temporal variation, (4) a high-tech, forward modelling approach to derive fertilizer recommendations for management units in Zuidland in The Netherlands, and (5) a high-tech, backward modelling approach to detect the relative effects of several stress factors on soybean yield.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-476
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


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